AI Culture Lab

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Waag develops a permanent research site for artificial intelligence (AI) together with partners at Amsterdam Science Park.

The AI Culture Lab sets out to explore the role and potential of AI in our shared futures, understanding AI systems both as technological and cultural phenomena. It adds humanities, artistic and citizen perspectives to the already existing excellent data and computing research practices at the Amsterdam Science Park. The AI Culture Lab develops research programmes, and prototypes practical tools for understanding and acting upon the ethical, cultural, psychological and philosophical dimensions of AI. It brings together artists, scientists, citizens and entrepreneurs to share ideas, pursue research and foster new, civic applications of this major new technology.

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The advent of artificial intelligence has provoked dire scenarios in which humanity is either annihilated by a robot apocalypse, or assimilated into a 'singularity’ of digitised consciousness. Beyond these tropes, the technologies associated with artificial intelligence are rapidly being integrated into diverse realms of human activity. Ubiquitous computing creates a universal pathway for AI into our lives, from autonomous vehicles to predictive policing and from micro-targeting ads to urban surveillance networks.

The practical and ethical consequences of this rapid implementation are largely unexplored outside of academia, yet of critical public concern in the present and near future. Moreover, the current trajectories of AI systems are largely controlled by major technology and venture capital firms, leaving the public with little agency beyond worrying about grim future scenario’s of joblessness, assimilation or annihilation. There is an urgent need to open up a space for positive scenarios, and for platforms that explore and implement decentral, cultural and civic use-cases for AI that serve common, rather than private interests.

Research agenda

The AI Culture Lab structures its activities into research areas, each involving public, scientific and artistic components. Its stated goal is exploring alternative notions and applications of AI, positing the human in the interplay of algorithms and data. The core activities of the lab are facilitating artistic research projects and residencies into AI, and developing AI knowledge and applications for and with the public, in conjunction with scientific and business partners of the community. The lab develops along three major research lines, and supports two research lines of other labs:

  1. Artificial personality: by what practices or procedures can we enculture AI agents, and how can we 'raise' trustworthy AI? How can we code creatively with bias, coming to understand bias as inherent to culture? What forms of ‘extended intelligence’ and specifically human-AI interaction can we develop?
  2. People’s AI: how can AI be appropriated by the people? What civic and public needs could AI serve, and what possibilities can be designed for local, community-hosted and self-built AI in everyday life? How can trust networks serve the exchange of and between such AI agents?
  3. Open AI: what accountability procedures can we develop for AI? How should governments codify morality and formulate laws in parametric governance models? What roles do we envisage for AI public life and civil society?