Resources



 

Press Resources

Media Contact: Margaret Cox, mc94@cmu.edu

 

 

    2

 

Upcoming Exhibition

 
 
Kate Cooper, Experiments in Absorption, 2015

Paradox: The Body in the Age of AI

Curated by Elizabeth Chodos
Oct. 5, 2018 - Feb. 3, 2019

Thurs. Oct. 4, 6-8pm: Reception

Artists: Zach Blas, Brian Bress, Nick Cave, Kate Cooper, Stephanie Dinkins, Jes Fan, Claudia Hart, Eunsu Kang, Jillian Mayer, Sarah Oppenhiemer, Seibren Versteeg

Additional events + public programming to be announced soon!

This exhibition explores the primacy of the human body as it’s poised on the precipice of a potential fusion with artificial intelligence. Inspired by the Moravec Paradox, the show looks deeper into the unconscious role the body’s sensorimotor habitat has in shaping our awareness, imagination, and socio-political structures. Society tends to privilege reason and logic because it is conscious and quantifiable. But beneath this thin “veneer of human thought” is a deeper, more complex knowledge system within the body. As technologists imagine the potentials of merging humans with AI, these artists consider the body’s elusive and underestimated power. Their various investigations across multiple media offer room to speculate about the exchange between the unconscious and conscious, and ask questions about what the body knows. Before we enter a generation where cyborgs are as ubiquitous as the internet, in a time when we still inhabit human bodies, the urgent questions to ask are what lessons can our mortal vessels teach us and what unknown paradox might we contain?


Exhibition Statement

Disembodied environments for interaction have proliferated with the emergence of social media, which have provided endless opportunities for social life to play out in virtual space, with no physical contact. This new setting has powerfully connected millions of people, but the disembodied nature of these interactions also facilitates dehumanization. The increased access to strangers across the globe fans the flames of xenophobic ideologies, nationalism, and us vs. them mentalities. The fact that technology’s abilities to connect and to divide are equally powerful is a paradoxical outcome of these advances that previous generations could not have foreseen.

In the late 80’s, artificial intelligence and robotics scientists had promised huge developments that they then struggled to deliver. The Moravec Paradox was one the many challenges delaying progress. It showed that high-level reasoning and logic problems required only little computation, whereas basic sensorimotor skills like walking, or seeing, required enormous amounts of computational resources. CMU faculty, Hans Moravec, theorized that this paradox could be explained by the process of human evolution. He writes, “Encoded in the large, highly evolved sensory and motor portions of the human brain is a billion years of experience about the nature of the world and how to survive in it. The deliberate process we call reasoning is, I believe, the thinnest veneer of human thought, effective only because it is supported by this much older and much more powerful, though usually unconscious, sensorimotor knowledge.” This paradox reveals that there is fundamental information stored in the dialogical relationship of the mind and body; its unconscious nature belies its critical role and its levels of complexity.

At about the same time as the discovery of the Moravec Paradox, Donna Haraway was imagining the cultural implications of new technologies, and published her influential essay, The Cyborg Manifesto, in 1984. In her feminist text, the human/machine amalgam presents a theoretical framework where the category-blurring cyborg breaks down traditional social and political boundaries. Her essay offers a utopic premise that the cyborg might provide the conditions to imagine structures outside of the sexist, classist, and racists systems of patriarchy, capitalism, and colonialism. In it she writes, “Liberation rests on the construction of consciousness, the imaginative apprehension, of oppression, and so of possibility.” Since this essay was published, some of the dystopian influences of AI have been brought to bear through data surveillance, privacy breaches, and election meddling. Could the paradox in the age of the cyborg be technology’s equal role in liberation and oppression?

Today, access to much faster computers, big data, and more sophisticated machine learning has allowed the AI field to overcome many of the challenges Moravec and his colleagues faced in the 80s. Unprecedented advances and applications of AI are causing a techno-social paradigm shift to rapidly take hold. Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk actively develop technological enhancements, through products like Neuralink, to embed software into the body that can merge humans with AI. Before the turn of the next century the cyborg may be the new status quo.

This exhibition explores the primacy of the human body as it’s poised on the precipice of a potential fusion with artificial intelligence. Inspired by the Moravec Paradox, the show looks deeper into the unconscious role the body’s sensorimotor habitat has in shaping our awareness, imagination, and socio-political structures. Society tends to privilege reason and logic because it is conscious and quantifiable. But beneath this thin “veneer of human thought” is a deeper, more complex knowledge system within the body. As technologists imagine the potentials of merging humans with AI, these artists consider the body’s elusive and underestimated power. Their various investigations across multiple media offer room to speculate about the exchange between the unconscious and conscious, and ask questions about what the body knows. Before we enter a generation where cyborgs are as ubiquitous as the internet, in a time when we still inhabit human bodies, the urgent questions to ask are what lessons can our mortal vessels teach us and what unknown paradox might we contain?