2019, Sat, Apr 27

How Do You Know It When You See It?

Luis Campos, Maya Indira Ganesh, Noël Yeh Martín, Sascha Pohflepp

While recognition is at the heart of understanding, the kinds of objects, people, and life that make it possible often mislead one into think something is what it isn’t or isn’t what it is. The recognition of life in the sciences – that is, the determination of whether something is alive or not – is a classic example of this problem.

Artist and design researcher Sascha Pohflepp provides a framing of this question that challenges notions of recognition through the presence of an “artificial life” algorithm that visually reacts to other life forms in the room. Synthetic biologist Noël Yeh Martín examines the idea of artificial life by reporting on the Mansy Lab’s efforts to recreate the Turing test between synthetic and natural microorganisms. Historian of science Luis Campos points to historical examples used in his work on both terrestrial biology and astrobiology that suggest “life” has been posing us with a problem of recognition throughout the history of the very concept. Media theorist Maya Indira Ganesh examines entities that are not entirely human or non-human, but that share some affective and cognitive capacities with both sides of the spectrum, to develop what she calls a “Speculative Inventory of Almost-Cyborgs.” She discusses how we might relate to and with those beings that inhabit in-between states.

With AI-software by Mark Iandkova.