United Intelligence Lab
Let’s wind up the nursery tale of AI
The United Intelligence Lab considers AI to be the most transformative technology of our time that shapes the way we interact, create and think. To find out more, we sat down with UIL for an interview.
KIOSK: Could you tell us more about the United Intelligence Lab, what is it?
🦜 The United Intelligence Lab (UIL) originated at V2_ Lab for the Unstable Media in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. We are specifically interested in where AI intersects with creative practices. Most AI technology focuses on practical applications and less on artistic productions. This imaginative shift is very important to us, which is where a certain playfulness steps in instead of perceiving it as a technological threat. UIL launched the C.AI.M application to engage people in writing a manifesto on this topic.
KIOSK: Why did it have to be a manifesto?
🦜 There is a tradition of manifesto’s both in art and technology. It gives a sense of urgency, it literally manifests. C.AI.M intends to be more than a just critical reflection, it serves as an opportunity to take a position.
KIOSK: How does the C.AI.M app work?
🦜 The Critical Artificial Intelligence Manifesto (C.AI.M.) application is a tool which functions as a sounding board to inform yourself and others about AI.
This happens by browsing through statements, the app is basically Tinder for statements on AI: you swipe through them and select what you want to construct your personal manifesto. Each individual manifesto is a personal one.
In order to feed the database with statements, we organize meet-ups and events to address issues surrounding the topic and harvest new statements about AI.
Eventually, C.AI.M is a group effort since the community decides what statements end up in the database. Additionally, from all individual manifestoes, a general one emerges.
KIOSK: How can you be sure that real people are participating and not machines?
🦜 We state that everybody can join the community, except if you’re an AI. Don’t worry, we have plenty of experience distinguishing AI from human participants. But if an AI would contribute a unique statement, we could be in trouble. We deliberately chose not to train an AI to generate statements. Only people are entitled to negotiate what should be included.
KIOSK: Just a striking thought, when looking at the app, why not include images as statements? To create a manifesto with images instead of text.
🦜 Traditionally, a manifesto is rather text-based. It’s a different way to convey ideas and concepts. To visualize this would complicate things and the communication would be less direct. Images are much more contextualized within certain communities, so employing them would make the system less democratic or less accessible. It is a compelling idea, maybe something for a future update.
KIOSK: Talking about updates, will the manifesto ever be finished?
🦜 No, it is a dynamic, intelligent one. One of the additional features that we are currently looking into is the ability to use quotes and references. It is interesting to include literature dedicated to AI critique and history to expand the database.
Also our community gets constantly updated, once you start using the app, you are invited to contribute statements yourself.
KIOSK: In January 2021, you presented the application at CICA, followed by the Critical AI Manifestation at KIOSK in May. Do you want to target a specific public by selecting artistic contexts such as these?
🦜 We actually started with an event at V2_ Lab where we harvested quotes and new statements during a meet-up with an already well-informed audience. Since then we developed ways of getting in touch with a broader audience. Manifestations at CICA and KIOSK but also an introductory video are part of this strategy.
KIOSK: In your communication, you use a parrot. What’s the meaning behind this?
🦜 We consider AI to be a type of parrot. Especially when it comes down to their appropriation of language models, which have become widespread through social media. They parrot, or repeat mechanically, the way people think and construct language – the syntax. So they mimic human behavior. During the event at KIOSK, we noticed how the real parrots in the room were overseeing the participants, almost like supervisors, trying to observe human behaviour. It’s an interesting change of perspective to look through the eye of an animal, like AI is sometimes considered to be the ‘other’ to the human.
KIOSK: Can AI ever replace humans?
🦜 FYI: AI was created by humans – it is not an “animal”. Yet, we notice in several discourses that we’re treating it as if it was a natural phenomenon.
In the artistic sphere, one wonders: can AI produce art? This is a flawed question because art is part of human behaviour. At best, the AI could be the artwork but not the art producer. A system might produce generative works, but why would a computer want to produce art?