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Carsten Nicolai: “Our true motivation is the voracity for the new”

The German artist and musician on artificial intelligence and science fiction as inspiration for the art of the future, along with his gallerist Gerd Harry “Judy” Lybke from EIGEN + ART.

I’ve always been fascinated by futurism and technology, and I really enjoy working on these topics, but at the same time I’m a skeptic. There’s this dystopia that machines will rule humans someday. But that’s not compelling. After all, humans thought up machines. Machines are tools that have a clear function of helping humans. In the end, humans built machines themselves. Only the priorities are important. The priorities are clear with prostheses or orthoses. Isaac Asimov had already established his Three Laws of Robotics in 1942. He wrote this at a time when we didn’t even know that robots would one day become truly relevant. Today it has come so far that we have to impose morals on the machines.


A great deal of my work attempts to understand something. The most fundamental question is: why do people have the need to be creative? After all, I don’t have to do this. Where does the need to write books or paint pictures come from? Is there some kind of enzyme that pushes me forward? I think it comes from the curiosity. The voracity for something new, which is the literal meaning of the German word for curiosity, Neugierde. We’re permanently creating new things. Wittgenstein said something to the effect that everything you can think of has already existed before. And because everything already existed, that gives you the possibility to do something new. People always build upon traditions and then recombine them to create something new. That is our true motivation.


You can find the entire article in the book Futuring Human Mobility. The trade edition will be published in Spring 2019.

Ranga Yogeshwar: “A mountaineer does not die on the summit, he dies on his way to the summit”

The esteemed German science journalist explains the prospects of AI rendering humankind obsolete, why even following ethical guidelines can lead to unethical results, and how to civilize the new digital continent.

AI gives power to those who use it, resulting in a growing global asymmetry. Take the debates about the stability of democracies. The impact of social networks, which are fueled by algorithms using AI to prioritize news, already has a huge potential to change our grammar of communication and thus destabilize our society. Or take medicine, where difficult issues concerning privacy and ethics pop up almost daily. Just recently Nature Medicine published a paper about an AI called DeepGestalt that can diagnose genetic conditions with a higher accuracy than doctors, simply by analyzing facial images. This is an issue.


Ethical questions will become the dominant concerns in the future. What are we going to do if one nation starts developing and using autonomous AI weapons? What will we do in the economy, if expert systems are able to anticipate the stock markets and literally dominate them? Will we survive this instability? As I like to say, a mountaineer does not die on the summit, he dies on his way to the summit. We have to ask deeply philosophical questions: is it OK to measure everything? Is it OK to form categories in all areas of life? Is there a true isomorphism between reality and the digital universe? Machine learning basically means, for example, feeding a neural network with data and formulating the categories that it works on. Is it legitimate to reduce people and their behavior to fixed categories, into numbers and probabilities? We humans don’t fit into fixed categories. Parts of our being are blurred and fuzzy in logical categories. Do we allow a future human being to make an error? Or do we face a dictatorship of optimization, of perfection? We need to understand the sense of imperfection, because it’s part of our human being.


You can find the entire article in the book Futuring Human Mobility. The trade edition will be published in Spring 2019.

Philipp Thesen: “Artificial intelligence must become personal intelligence”

The designer, strategist and professor for Human-System-Interaction at the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences calls for the release of our digital twins from the confines of Silicon Valley companies, explains how artificial intelligence can be humanized, and talks about the responsibilities of designers in shaping the digital future.

Computer technology underwent several transformations: from the electronic mainframe computer in huge wall cabinets to the personal computer (PC) on our desks to the smartphone of today, carried around by almost everyone across the globe in their pockets. As a result it has effectively become a private and personal tool for billions of individuals. Following this model, artificial intelligence must become personal intelligence.


From AI to PI. A tool for everyone. A technology that allows every individual to be a sovereign actor and user who immediately profits from technological progress. To achieve this designers are essential, because humanizing technology has always been the designer’s core task. Designers understand people’s fears, desires and needs. As the customer’s attorney, the designer has the empathy that is needed but often lacking in our industry. Consequently, the design discipline must face up to its greatest responsibility: civilizing artificial intelligence. Designers closely observe people, analyze their behavior and explore the context of their applications.


Designers shape the intuitive relationships people have with the objects and digital interaction interfaces they are using. And thus the designer takes on the role of mediator between technology and lifeworld. We have a large box of tools at our disposal which enable us to radically adopt the perspective of users and people. Consequently, the formula should read: PI = AI + UX. Personal Intelligence = Artificial Intelligence + User Experience.


You can find the entire article in the book Futuring Human Mobility. The trade edition will be published in Spring 2019.