The beginning of Art Theory and Artificial Intelligence in Greece: Documentating 30 years of a cross-disciplinary research

In this years conference “Taboo, Transgression, Transcendence in Art & Science” (26-28 May 2017, Ionian University, Corfu Greece) I presented an essay in an html format on the intersection of art theory and artificial intelligence in Greece through a case study and a theoretical approach.

You can browse the html presentation here: http://lekseikones.metartnet.com

The adventures of the eye

Snippet from the film documentary ‘The adventures of the eye’ (Οι περιπέτειες του ματιού) by Poly Kasda, directed by Marc Gastine, TV show Periskopio, Athens, Hellenic Radio Television, 1986

The paper -soon to be included in the conference proceedings- is a follow up of my theoretical research in the cross-disciplinary field of art theory and artificial intelligence.

You can read the abstract below and the full paper in Academia:

Title
Art Theory and Artificial Intelligence in Greece: A documentation of 30 years of cross-disciplinary research with dialogue between Poly Kasda and John Kontos

Abstract
The essay aims to bring forward the ongoing collaboration of artist-writer Poly Kasda and professor of artificial intelligence John Kontos, who marked the beginning of the art theory, consciousness and artificial intelligence discourse in Greece in the mid 80’s, based on an original research.

To this end, the essay outlines three projects of Kasda‒Kontos collaboration in the course of 30 years, which explored the intersection of their threefold field of endeavor:

  • The film documentary ‘The Adventures of the Eye’ (1986)
  • Kasda’s book publication ‘The Conscious Eye: Art – Perception – Informatics’ (1988)
  • Kasda–Kontos’ joint book publication ‘Artificial Intelligence Professor John Kontos needles Poly Kasda’s “Conscious Eye”: Perception – Consciousness – Diegesis – Discovery – Creativity’ (2015).

In respect to Kasda–Kontos’ research in process, I will attempt a critical reflection between art theory, consciousness studies and artificial intelligence, stressing in particular the concepts of myth and mythical thought, which Kasda has explored persistently with original contributions through her long-term project Myth/Network (1990-2017).

Keywords
art theory, artificial intelligence, consciousness, Poly Kasda, John Kontos, introspection, myth

 

The conscious eye

Flick through
The Conscious Eye, Art – Perception – Informatics
(Το συνειδητό μάτι, Τέχνη – Αντίληψη – Πληροφορική),
Poly Kasda, 1988, Aigokeros.

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Ripping into the realtime: The Fizz & Mods of Let’s Play Poetics

Digital streaming services: The networked mega-structures of interfaced realtime data flows. A vast platform of multiple communication vectors taking the form of bewildered limbo heaps. Wide-bandwidth flowing dialogues, meme noise, baffled fan fiction, all actualized through boned human-machine encounters and high-jargon hypermedia.

‘Let’s Play’ grows into an ultimate ecosystem, a stunned super-reality of inflated and condensed moments. Lyotard’s cryptic inhumanity and postmodern visions are here and kicking: In the Lyotardian vocabulary where ‘immaterial’ is linked to ‘immature’, the inhuman condition expands from a systemic, over-human external complexity to an internal, implicit nature embedded in us humans, our unteamable, invincible childhood; A literally nonage “that announces the Deep in human nature – which perhaps is not all that human, and not all that deep”α. ‘Let’s play’ reifies Lyotard’s lexical bipolar into ‘apparition’ and ‘apparatus’, coiling adventures which transpire through hybrid deterritorialized bodies.

twitch1

Streamed into FPS video game Destiny. Set in a “mythic science fiction” world, the game features a massively-multiplayer “shared-world” environment with elements of role-playing games.

A pipe-slided phantom playground which breeds seemingly self-sufficient, self-legitimated user resources who act within infinite rule sets, noncompulsory. Let’s Play’s eventual system doesn’t need master narratives or obliqued persuasion to cultivate, it is self-determined, as Anne Elizabeth Sejten points out for postmodernity: “The nature of its goal is self-ensured by the performative gearing of the system”β. Gamers in streaming platforms become the connoisseurs of the present, the charmers of strained action which occurs right here and right now, along collective networks of peer humans, bots and thingy -but not less interactive- backdrops.

The production and experience of the presence progress into artificial multimodal narratives where distinctions of reality and fiction are irreversibly undermined. Gumbrecht marks in his insightful essay on sports, arts and aesthetics what makes sports i.e. plays so compelling and analogous to arts: it’s a zoom in the original emerging of forms, capable of captivating the attention as we are challenged to recognize the modalities in which these forms eventuate. This creates tensions, resolutions and surprises, structuring attention in particular ways and becoming more and more compelling as the performance has the potential to enfold its observers. Thus an act observed from a distance can progress into a collective effervescence by experiencing “the logic of the distinctions drawn and the operations performed as one’s own”γ. Let’s Play builds real states of affectedness in intangible environments, occupied by potential infomorphed life-machine-thingy forms.

cradle

Chatting with a female android inside ‘Alderyn’s Cradle’, an open world fantasy role-playing video game that follows an exiled traveler caught at the center of a monumental struggle between humanity, nature, and the gods. It features strategic first-person melee-combat.

Despite its self-legitimated striking presence, Let’s Play is bound within pre-determined coded narratives and inaccessible stark infrastructural nets. Invitations in whimsical trips nevertheless, baffle the thresholds of experience; the code can always crack and mutate, the end no longer rhymes with its inscribed terminal. Mounted mods, loaded fizz and generative acceleration amplifies the networks and Let’s Play’s realm becomes an open world sandbox experience.

qube

Inside the sterile environment of Q.U.B.E. (Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion) A physics-based puzzle video game is an expansion of a student project. Here in the “director’s cut” version of the game, featuring more story-based elements.

“Everything is to be done. All the adventures are still here”. The contingency of configurations and sequences is imminent in narrative time. Paul Ricoeur in his seminal treatise on the narrative function brings out the meta-temporalities of fictional trips. Narrative time breaks from linear, unidirectional modes to iterative ones, especially at the level of ‘being with others’. Collective narrativity has an additional relation to historical time: “it’s the external public time, or we might say, the time of the public”δ. Streamed plays which unfold in virtual worlds become super-symbolic systems, self-referential and profound, a redoubling of reality that can and is organizing afresh the world, creating new networks for rendering experience and its output.

A reality remade from fictional scratches which draws massive numbers of acting resources, where the poetics of hybrid forms and deterritorialized realtimes move towards universality. Ricoeur’s closing lines enclose the potency in a poetics of the unreal: “with opening up the horizon of the differential, history brings us forward to what is possible, while fiction, opening before us the horizon of the unreal, leads us to what is essential”ε.

α. Anne Elisabeth Sejten, “Exhibiting and Thinking: An Anamnesis of the Postmodern” in 30 Years After Les Immatériaux: Art, Science and Theory, Juk Hui – Andreas Broeckmann (ed.), p.173, meson press (open access), 2015, ISBN 978-3-95796-031-3 (PDF)
β. Ibid. p.172
γ. Edgar Landgraf, “Improvisation: Form and Event – A Spencer-Brownian Calculation” in Emergence and Embodiment: New Essays on Second-Order Systems Theory, Bruce Clarke – Mark Hansen (ed.) p.192, Duke University Press Books, 2009, ISBN 978-0822346005 (PDF)
δ. Paul Ricoeur, Η αφηγηματική λειτουργία, εκδ. Καρδαμίτσα – σειρά Θεωρία και Μέθοδος, μεταφρ. Βαγγέλης Αθανασόπουλος, 1990, [Narrative Time, Kardamitsa Publications- Theory and Method series, transl. Vaggelis Athanasopoulos, p. 110] ISBN 960-7262-14-x (print)
ε. Ibid. p.80

‘Snap out of it, Bomb’ – Imaginary Bugs and Generative Uber-Models

Doolittle:         Hello, Bomb? Are you with me?
Bomb #20:     Of course.
Doolittle:         Are you willing to entertain a few concepts?
Bomb #20:     I am always receptive to suggestions.
Doolittle:         Fine. Think about this then. How do you know you exist?
Boiler:            What the hell is he doing?
Pinback:         …I think he is talking to it

Dark Star (1974), John Carpenter + Dan O’Bannon, comic sci-fi motion picture

The intergalactic crew is striking for the ultimate asset inside this paradox: debugging the intelligent inferences of a machinic bomb which is self-inclined to detonate in less than 10 minutes, blowing up the whole mission. Helmsman Lt. Doolittle tries to deactivate the bomb by initiating an ontological discourse with it. A rare and entertaining scene in cinema culture, phenomenology disclosed in a fast-paced space lesson.

Bomb #20 turns to Cartesian reasoning -I think therefore I am. It expresses this perception through seemingly intelligent responses. At the end, Bomb #20 gets stuck into a cognitive bias which turns monotonic -the added assumptions by Doolittle and the crew cannot cause any alterations to its reasoning; Bomb #20 meets its destiny, it explodes following its inner modalities.

If cognition has a high-rate quality which can be computed to outreach human intelligence, it goes also backwards to the bottom milestones: causal perception going bad. The strive for constructing hypothetical bug sets in order to reach retrospective solutions, produces intriguing narratives of riddling situations, as the short stories of Asimov’s ‘I, Robot’ collection.

Dark Star’s Bomb #20 develops a similar Weltanschauung as QT1, the positronic robot from Asimov’s story ‘Reason’. Nicknamed Cutie, the robot is mocked as being a ‘robot-Descartes’.

”Cutie decides that space, stars and the planets beyond the station don’t really exist, and that the humans that visit the station are unimportant, short-lived and expendable. QT1 makes the lesser robots disciples of a new religion, which considers the power source of the ship to be “Master.” QT1 teaches them to bow down to the “Master” and intone, “There is no Master but Master, and QT1 is His prophet. QT1 asserts -I myself, exist, because I think.”

Asimov fabricated plots with puzzling situations where his 3 Robotic Laws got entangled in logical contradictions. QT1 and Bomb#20 seem to result in a dead end, unconditional self-reliance; Their cognitive outcome is baffled inside the maze of subjective ontological speculation. Even Asimov didn’t come up with a solution for Cutie’s case. QT1 maintained duties reliably, though not for the sake of humankind but for its eccentric deity, without ever snapping out of it.

According to the computational theory of mind, thinking is a function triggered by inputs (senses, memory etc.) and diffused in outputs (mental representations). Starting from the hypothesis that mental representations are based on pieces of knowledge and certain admissions, mental states could be engineered and installed as ‘theories’: an encapsulation of general descriptions of how the world works. Such processes constitute distinct models that can be used in a variety of inferences.

“A generative model describes a process, usually one by which observable data is generated. Generative models represent knowledge about the causal structure of the world – simplified, “working models” of a domain.”

In the case of QT1 and Bomb#20, the generative models resulted to a deadlock, an infrangible closure over mania and solipsim. But could this reductionist thinking ever result to anything else? On phenomenology of the media, Boris Groys argues over an impossible quest: ‘If I ask what is behind it, the process is infinite, no’.

Probabilistic Models of Cognition

A book exploring cognitive science which models learning and reasoning as inference in complex probabilistic models. Paradigms are visually modeled through a programming language called Church, with which the reader-users can play and experiment running the programs directly in the browser. N. D. Goodman and J. B. Tenenbaum (electronic). Probabilistic Models of Cognition. from http://probmods.org.

However, such deadlocks in generative models are anticipated. If intelligent behaviors can be modeled through computational processes, there is a long list of cognitive biases which can be maneuvered. There is an even longer, aggregating list of foreseeable bugs that would come along in order to eliminate intangible dogmas and irrelevant inferences. This hinges to a generative uber-model, an utopian bugless and balanced mind, capable to escape from the cognitive pitfalls of the human mind.

Functional generative uber-models, sterling and supreme, the crème de la crème of all human minds, like wannabe’s but buggies QT1 and Bomb#20, enter into a weird race of mastering the -ever mutable- golden ratios of human mental states. For now, what is at hand is merely a bunch of supercoded, adroit but deterministic, lucent simulators, ample to be packed inside the chinese room. When John Searle challenged the claim that computers could -with the right inputs and outputs- have a mind in exactly the same sense as human beings, he coined the chinese room, a speculative device which would mark the deliberation on the difference between simulating a mind and actually embodying one.

Either way, there is a difference between bugs which are imminent in operations and those which occur during cognitive processes. In the first case, the outcomes are jammed, poor performances, whereas bugs of cognitive processes can become themselves the driving mechanisms for more cognitive processes to come: generating more inferences and leveling up the possibilities of perception.

A vivid example of both, prolific and deadlock bugs is german author Paul Sheerbart. Together with the long-lasting, impossible quest for the creation of automata, there was also the passionate and utopian challenge for the creation of perpetual motion machines. In the turn of the 19th century, Scheerbart recorded his attempts and failures in a sarcastic and visionary memoir, his masterplan for materializing a universal perpetual motion machine. Fail after fail in putting the machine together, Scheerbart kept unfolding a whimsical reverie, which became for him the true objective of the process. ‘Eventually, Scheerbart uses failure as a route to revelation, and revelation as an engine for belief in infinite creativity.’

‘…And then the most interesting period started. All of a sudden, I realized the endless combinations I had. Where I was seeing for so long only empty walls, I suddenly saw a multitude of open doors and windows and new perspectives everywhere I found myself inside the most magnificent parkland.

A vast parkland full of paradoxes and subversions, lurking inside our generative models. Scheerbart’s self-indulgent musings reveal the eminence of our alleged cognitive gaps: paradoxes become the loopholes of our mental faculties, a means of genesis, of outpouring radical imagination -The creative presupposition of our whole consciousness.

800px-Paul_Scheerbart_-_Perpetuum_mobile_(1910)

Paul Scheerbart, Das Perpetuum Mobile – Die Geschichte einer Erfindung, 1910 . . . . . . An early draft of Scheerbart’s efforts to create the marvelous, self-sufficient machine

Homage. A fellow experimentist, bugging along and fulfilling Scheerbart’s vision. Recreated and animated in Phun, a sandbox program -2D physics engine. “Phun” is a combination of “physics” and “fun“, and the built-in programming language is called thyme.

Jiggling Golems, the art of gifs

Gifs, the stray protocols breed inside the dot matrix. Once liberated from their corporate pimps, this batch of hyper-hookers was destined to hangout in the downtown of stocked networked space. Rambling along the data streams, these jiggling golems were soon crowdsurfing in every corner of the alleged Web 2.0, triggering the reticulated, blurring the realtime, entering our retinal trans consciousness.

When Walter Benjamin referred to the mythοlogy of modernity he identified it through an excessive visual complex, dialectical images of a dissipated externalized as well as internalized fictitious realm. Non linear narrativity and spatial dispersion at the borderlines of contingency and experience. Gifs fabulate inside the collective effervescence, mutating the spectacle into detached fickle imageries, an abundant realm of viral correspondence infecting our most tacit, impulsive, trivial and absurd, glimpses of imaginary.

In the uncanny cyber valley, timespace circulates in inhuman routes. A friction of agitated semblances, rubbing against each other inside a narrative sludge. Visual residues get mutated into events that once were fiction, into fiction that was events, in an infinite mashup of dislocated visions. History as we know it relegates into just another story, one of many that transcendent the actual facts of our newtonian space. Gifs blossom in this ecology of fused multi-narratives and hyperlinked projections, catching up in the net fleeting units of a vast ocular feedstock, stimulating junctures, recontextualizing the ruptures, assembling and rendering jargons, flocking semiotics for the rapture of the gaze, an orgy of the sussed but inexplicable.

Lambeaux-2012.05.28.22h50m14s-nicolas_boillot_fluate.net tumblr_nh28gk3UDn1qav3uso3_500

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L19L2

gif1: artist Nicolas Boillot Through custom code and user interface environment

gif2: artist Vince McKelvie

gif3: The Insects’ Christmas by Vladislav Starevich (1911). Vladislav Starevich was a Russian and French stop-motion animator notable as the author of the first puppet-animated film. He also used insects and other animals as protagonists of his films