Blog : Ideas

The rise of artificial intelligence: all in the mind?

The rise of artificial intelligence: all in the mind?

Margaret tells me that she will be away this summer – making her annual trip to a remote Pacific island – out of touch from phones and email.

Now over 80 years old and a Research Professor of Cognitive Science at the Department of Informatics at The University of Sussex, Margaret Boden isn’t how you’d picture an expert on artificial intelligence.  The walls of her living room are covered in collections of computer generated art from the 1960s, alongside Balinese puppets and a collection of glass from early history.

Studying medical sciences and later philosophy and psychology, she worked to develop the world’s first academic programme in cognitive science in the 1960s. Though she talks lucidly about technology,  her interest and authority on AI comes from understanding the impact and relationship of AI to people.

In science fiction, robots reflect our deepest desires, needs and fears – they are our slaves, entertainment and our personal assistants – caring for the elderly, serving as companions for the lonely but at the same time threatening to outsmart, outperform and overthrow us.

According to Margaret, far away from the realms of science-fiction, AI is already transforming what it means to be human. Behind every internet search, bank transaction or online movie recommendation, AI is influencing the very fabric of the societies we live in.

Acknowledging AI’s conflicting and complex influence on people, she sees major developments on the horizon: from disrupting work and the jobs we do, to tackling currently incurable diseases and enabling “the generation of previously impossible ideas.”
Watch Margaret’s interview to hear her hopes for the future.

 

Watch Margaret’s interview

 

Have your say and follow the conversation using the hashtags #its2097 and #expertinterview

 

What’s next for a sustainable economy?

What’s next for a sustainable economy?

Donald Trump’s rejection of the Paris Agreement this month could be the most harmful decision to the future of our planet, ever.

His intention to resurrect the United State’s old industries of mining and coal has brought widespread condemnation from business leaders and oil giants alike. Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg said that the withdrawal was “bad for the environment, bad for the economy and it puts out children’s future at risk”.  This was echoed by Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, who condemned the President’s move in his first ever tweet.

Potentially turning the clock back decades on environmental policy, what does Trump’s decision mean for the future?

As part of the research for our upcoming sci-fi films imagining life in 2097, we spoke to university professor David Gibbs about the challenge of reconciling global industry and consumption with the need to live sustainably.

David argues that sustainable economies depend on transformations at every level: from government policy  to local networks and ‘green entrepreneurs’ such as the UK farmer who transformed his farm to grow crops for eco-friendly building materials. Ideas such as the ‘steady state’ economy and the ‘circular’ economy – championed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation – seek to accelerate this transformation.

 

steel_circular_economy

 

David points to these and to the development of renewable energy, like the gigantic Siemens factories in both Hull and Denmark – producing 75 metre long rotor blades for wind farms in the North Sea – as showing promise that sustainable thinking is now going mainstream.

He frames the challenge today as one of imagination and re-invention.
Can we transform industry to meet our appetites for consumption in a way that is sustainable?

 

Watch David’s interview

 

Have your say and follow the conversation using the hashtags #Its2097 and #ExpertInterview

Grassroots Utopias and how to build them

Grassroots Utopias and how to build them

“The streets are twenty feet broad; there lie gardens behind all their houses… Their doors have all two leaves, which, as they are easily opened, so they shut of their own accord; and, there being no property among them, every man may freely enter into any house whatsoever.”

Thomas More, Utopia, first published in 1516

Arguably the first science fiction ever written, Thomas More’s Utopia has inspired generations of thinkers and writers to imagine new worlds in the future.

Today is a chilly December morning and our host, Christian Juuls Wendell leads me and a group of young people from Hull and Aarhus through a warren of wood workshops: past a blacksmith and out to the area they use for converting shipping containers into anything from food stalls to homes. This is Institut for X in Aarhus, Denmark, a utopia of sorts that has sprung up on the outskirts of the city centre and that is heralded as an example of how to design and manage the cities of the future.

Once home to the city’s homeless and dispossessed, the former railway yard now houses designers, architects, carpenters and artists – who over the last nine years, have built an improvised village from sheds, shacks and old shipping containers. A form of ‘bottom-up’ development, the area provides small scale solutions which in turn act as the fertile soil for building a creative and inclusive city – which adapts to the needs of its citizens.


Its success may be due, in part, to what Christian calls ‘municipal bowling’ – where getting permission from a city government for grassroots development is just a question of finding the right person to persuade. Find the right person and they themselves will advocate for change and persuade the rest of the city administration to come on side.

Torre David, Caracas
Torre David, Caracas


From examples such as Torre David in Caracas – a 45 storey high-rise left abandoned after the collapse of the Venezuelan economy and adapted by a community of 750 families – to digital infrastructure and questions over how and smart technology is deployed in our cities, the arguments about who is best placed to lead development of our cities continues.

Watch Christian’s interview to hear his views from the ground in Aarhus.

 

Watch Christian’s interview

 

What does 2097 look like?

What does 2097 look like?

What does 2097 look like?

Take a look at some of the images scriptwriter Matt has been drawing inspiration from to create the world of the five sci-fi films. Can you imagine these buildings, objects and people being part of your city in 80 years time?

Objects

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Neri Oxman mask, credit: Dezeen

Thinking about what ceremonial objects may look like 80 years from now, we came across these beautiful 3D printed death masks by Neri Oxman on Dezeen. The bruise-colours and the crystalline quality of the material have a sci-fi edge, almost like the object is alive, “I love the idea that in the future 3D printers will create objects of high cultural value”.

And speaking of 3D printers…

DSC02891_Blast Theory

In January Matt, Ju and Nick were in South Korea and drove past these on the way to Incheon. Machines will undoubtedly change in the next 80 years but cranes from 1937 wouldn’t look that far out of place today.

Buildings

Matt’s been looking at a lot of brutalist architecture from the 50s and 60s because “brutalism was perhaps the last architectural movement that set out to transform everything. It was so radical. You had buildings with almost no windows, entire districts moved onto a different level. And the thing about brutalism is that the designs immediately raise questions as to the building’s purpose. I’m not even sure if the central bank in Baghdad strictly qualifies as brutalism but this photo is shocking. Not just for the US troops guarding it and the damage visible on the bank itself (it was looted by Saddam Hussein’s sons) but for the sense of power emanating from the building.”

US troops guard the Central Bank of Iraq. The building was looted during the war. USAIDS is providing a "ministry in a box" which includes desks, chairs, telephones and computers to help get the misintry get back to business.

This photo of the recently opened Qatar Foundation in Doha, designed by OMA is striking in a different way. From the inside it has this fantastic panoramic view of the city framed between the concrete. It seems remote from the ground below.

qatar-foundation-headquarters-oma-architecture-offices-credit-jazzy-news_dezeen_2364_col_12_Dezeen

People

Umbrellas, skirts, cardigans and patterns. Artist Nick has been looking to the past for inspiration on future clothes. After all things often come back into fashion.

FLASHBACK HDM ARCHIVE LIBRARY IMAGES weekly daily Images of Freetown Way in Hull. Dated 22nd August 1986 - pedestrians and motorists alike get used to Hull's newest road. keywords - roads traffic access 1980's car cars wet weather rain umbrella umbrellas rainy pouring generic brolly brollie

 

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Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting more snippets of inspiration that have influenced the film scripts form Aarhus, Hull and beyond.


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Welcome To The Future

Welcome To The Future

Breathing in, you might think that the air is the same but it’s not. The tide covers the eaves of the Old Town. Lights twinkle on the moon.

This city is on the cusp of a new century. Over the past 80 years, its map has been redrawn: the tidal arrays have been grown out to sea, the myriad canals and marine farms now encircle the city centre.

We grew. The city moved. The long grass was cut back and the housing estates from the last century hummed with voices; their windows blinked with industry.

But that was a while ago.  It is now 2097. That hum of traffic outside the window is just a recording.  Now the streets are quiet and the houses stand empty once more. After nearly a century of growth and industry, the ground has fallen away and you’re floating above the city.

Now it’s up to you to decide on where we go next.

Here we are at the start of 2017, having spent the last three months gathering thoughts, drawings and ideas about the future from people across Hull and Aarhus: from scientists to school children.

Way back at the millennium, all those numbers on the clock ticked over together and we entered an age that was once the realm of science fiction. Today, prime ministers and presidents seem to be at the mercy of events. Tax seems optional for some and it is uncertain who is in control and how we work together for good.

2097: We Made Ourselves Over springs from a desire to explore our capacity for self-determination and resilience in this context. It continues our concern with the social impact and opportunities of rapidly changing technology on our everyday lives. It is a science fiction project that takes the city on a journey into an imagined time at the close of this century and asks questions about the respective roles of technology, utopia and our own imaginations in setting a course for the future.

We want to invite people to think in new ways about the lives we lead and where we want our communities to go. Incorporating contributions and voices from both Aarhus and Hull, we will create a diverse set of eye-level perspectives on the future, set against a common fate in a single imaginary city. We will frame the present within a longer historical cycle of economic decay and renewal; postulating a lifetime of changes that will transform the city in the coming century, reflecting on loss, and our sense of history and purpose in the face of the unknown.

Over the coming year, we hope to raise some difficult questions about the challenges we face and, with your help, uncover some exciting and unexpected answers.

We’d love you to join us on our ride into the future.

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