As more humans turn to apps and websites to find relationships, a growing non-human presence is rising to meet them. The “Bot Like Me” symposium explores the transformations emerging from this new frontier of human-machine relationships. Today, we have more smart machines around us, more bots than humans on the web, virtual assistants in our homes, bedrooms and pockets.
The Bot Like Me symposium invites designers, technologists, artists, and writers to share perspectives on the growing intimacy and emotional relationships we have with algorithms, data, and machines – and the impact they all have on us.
This is the second edition of the ‘Bot like Me Symposium’ in relationship with the !Mediengruppe Bitnik exhibition. The first took place at the Centre Culturel Suisse in Paris in December 2016, and a third will be held in June at the EPFL ArtLab in Lausanne, Switzerland.
1:30pm – doors open
2-2:10 – opening remarks by Sophie Lamparter and Luc Meier
2:10-3:30 – sessions with !Mediengruppe Bitnik, Annalee Newitz, Liesl Yearsley, Jacqueline Feldman
3:30-3:50 – break
3:50-5:10 – sessions with Christopher Noessel, Joël Vacheron, Steve Omohundro, Liz Klinger
5:10-5:30 – break
5:30-6:30 – closing panel: the bot makers
6:30 – dinner and “Botluck” DJ set by Forlove (Jasper Speicher). Bring a vinyl record (or USB stick) with a robot-themed song to be included. (We provide the meal).
Please note: the Bot Like Me @Night event with Alex Murray-Leslie has been cancelled.
Sophie Lamparter is an Associate Director at swissnex San Francisco. By building networks in science, technology, art, and innovation, she has spearheaded interdisciplinary programs at the edges of art/technology and art/science. She believes in the power of dialogue and is passionate about finding new talent with a creative approach to technology. Sophie’s most recent initiative is DART 17, a testing lab for interactive projects. She is a 2017 jury member at the Priz Ars Electronica STARTS (Science +Technology + Arts), a new initiative by the European Commission to award artistic projects that drive innovation for industry and research.
Luc Meier is a former Associate Director of swissnex San Francisco, Luc was instrumental in setting up the organization’s art-technology interface program with partners such as the Swiss Arts Council, Pro Helvetia and a broad range of U.S partners. Luc is currently the Head of Content and curator in chief for the ArtLab Initiative at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). EPFL ArtLab is a programmatic initiative aiming to position the school’s research-education-tech transfer pipeline in the cultural domain through public programs combining art, science and technology.
!Mediengruppe Bitnik (via Skype)
Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures, lol
!Mediengruppe Bitnik live and work in Zurich/Berlin. They are contemporary artists working on, and with, the Internet. Their practice expands from the digital to physical spaces, often intentionally applying loss of control to challenge established structures and mechanisms. !Mediengruppe Bitnik’s works formulate fundamental questions concerning contemporary issues. !Mediengruppe Bitnik are Carmen Weisskopf and Domagoj Smoljo. Their accomplices are the London filmmaker and researcher Adnan Hadzi, and the reporter Daniel Ryser.
Investigating the Ashley Madison Data Dump: Sex and/or Fantasies in the Age of Bots
Annalee Newitz is an author and journalist who broke the story in 2015 about bots in the Ashley Madison database. She is the Tech Culture Editor at Ars Technica, and the founding editor of io9. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of popular tech site Gizmodo. She’s the author of Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction (Doubleday and Anchor), which was a finalist for the LA Times book prize. Her first science fiction novel, Autonomous, will be released from Tor in 2017. It is about robots. Learn more at www.techsploitation.com.
The Bot Makers
Ben Parr is the author of the best-selling book Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention, named the top marketing book of 2015 by Strategy+Business Magazine and Small Business Trends. He is Co-Founder and CMO of Octane AI, the easiest way to create a bot and engage your audience via messaging. He sits on the advisory boards of Lufthansa Airlines, Rebelmouse, AngelHack, UploadVR, LeadIQ, DropIn, and Ustream (acquired by IBM). Previously, Parr was a general partner at DominateFund, a columnist and commentator at CNET, and Co-Editor and Editor-at-Large of Mashable. He is a member of the Forbes 30 Under 30.
2,752 Years of Bots
Christopher Noessel is the Global Design Practice Manager with IBM, bringing IBM design to clients. He teaches, speaks about, and evangelizes design internationally. He investigates and speaks on topics ranging from interactive narrative to ethnographic user research, interaction design to generative randomness, and designing for the future. He is keeper of the blog scifiinterfaces.com and author of Designing Agentive Technology: AI That Works for People (Rosenfeld Media, 2017).
Other than Human
Jacqueline Feldman is a Brooklyn-based writer and designer of bot personalities. She has contributed to publications such as The Atlantic, Guernica, The New Inquiry, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The White Review, and Real Life. Her AI design work has been featured in the Guardian, Technical.ly Brooklyn, Refinery29, and in a video profile at Engadget. As a 2012-2013 Fulbright Fellow to France in Journalism, she reported about squatter communities; she has also worked as a translator of fiction and screen and stage plays from French and taught at Panthéon-Assas University.
Joël Vacheron writes about visual culture and the impact of technology on our ways of seeing. He is currently senior lecturer and researcher in visual communication at the University of Art and Design in Lausanne (ECAL) and freelance on diverse editorial projects. He recently published with Nicolas Nova “DADABOT: An Introduction to Machinic Creolization,” a book about the role of software and bots in cultural production, and the hybridization of cultural forms (music, visual arts, literature) produced by digital technologies. It deals with Twitter bots, generative music, software-based literature, and “all those weird art/design experiments” with digital hybridization and mash-ups.
Jordan Gray is representing CODAME, who built Shybot with six artist-engineers working under the name of Norma Jeane. Shybot has no function in the traditional sense. Rather, it’s been programmed to run away from any human it senses. Premiered at Desert X Biennial in Coachella Valley, Shybot captured the hearts of millions as it was covered by New York Times, Vice, Engadget and many more. CODAME was founded in 2009 by Jordan Gray and Bruno Fonzi to celebrate ART+TECH. Since then CODAME has featured over 200 artists at 60 plus events filled with interactive installations and inspiring experiences. Shybot is one of over 20 projects CODAME has built from scratch.
Truth vs Fiction: Learnings from Hundreds of Millions of Chats
Liesl Yearsley was CEO of the Artificial Intelligence company Cognea, which was acquired by IBM and is now an integral part of Watson. Prior to that, she was founder and CEO of an AI search engine company, which expanded across Asia and went public overseas. Her research background is in cognitive sciences, and Yearsley has four patents in the field.
Great Vibes: How can a vibrator create language, confidence, and intimacy?
Liz Klinger is the co-founder and CEO of Lioness Health, a company dedicated to improving the lives of women by opening up the conversation around women’s sexual health using technology. Their first product is a smart vibrator with integrated sensors and an intuitive design to help measure woman’s sexual response. Liz has been featured in the The New York Times’s Women of the World and was named a Ladies We Love by Ravishly. She has also appeared the Huffington Post Live’s morning show and spoken at top universities about women’s health and technology. She’s also an award-winning artist.
Bots for a Better World
Steve Omohundro founded Possibility Research and Self-Aware Systems to develop beneficial intelligent technologies. He has degrees in Physics and Mathematics from Stanford, and a Ph.D. in Physics from Berkeley. He was a computer science professor at the University of Illinois and cofounded the Center for Complex Systems Research. He designed the programming languages StarLisp and Sather, wrote the 3D graphics system for Mathematica, and invented many machine learning algorithms including manifold learning, model merging, bumptrees, and family discovery. He has built systems that learn to read lips, control robots, and induce grammars.
Forlove is San Francisco’s Jasper Speicher in an underground electronic sandbox of synthesizers and microphones. His sound is a moving target, with introspection, texture, and body movement always at its center. Specializing in deeply authentic and retro-touched music for physical dancing and mental drifts, Jasper conceived Forlove as a solo project after time spent playing in a number of Bay Area bands. Jasper studied engineering, sculpture, and computer music at Brown University, started playing in bands, and now takes a personal and deeply felt approach to electronic music. He invites you to come dance with him.
swissnex Gallery’s exhibition Desperate times call for desperate measures, lol by !Mediengruppe Bitnik personifies gigabytes of chatbot script data from the hack of adult website Ashley Madison. The hack of the dating website revealed that virtually no human women were present, and that 75,000 female chatbots were created to fuel the illusion of casual sex opportunities to millions of high paying men subscribers. The artists rebuilt 51 San Francisco fembots for the swissnex gallery to explore these human-bot relationships. Does it matter that users are chatting with bots and not humans? Why? How did the system work? How was trust built into it? Were these relationships ‘fake’ or ‘real’?
Photo: Astra Brinkmann for swissnex SF