RESEARCH PROJECTS

ETHICS BENEATH THE SURFACE
a project by Kristine Steenbergh, Behnam Taebi, Katie Crook & Kaweh Modiri.
The project is an initiative of the the Academy of the Arts and the Young Academy to stimulate a collaboration between Science and the Arts.

The project focusses on lower contaminated radio-active waste, how it is processed and stored and discusses the ethical challenges for nearby and further generations.

ENTER THE WRITERS CINEKID RESEARCHLAB

A project about the effects of technological tools on storytelling. Excerpt from the essay:

“GRACEFUL DEGRADATION

Cinekid’s MediaLab is a playing field. Here, the makers on the frontlines of technological creation are producing visually spectacular artworks that react to sound, movement, light, air or touch. You can cuddle with a tree, or marvel at a mysterious interactive projection screen in the form of a globe. New interactions continuously take place between the visitor and the work, creating a unique story. Yet there is a story behind the stories. That story is about the development of intelligent machines.

My thoughts on this subject, as well as my approach to such interactive art, cannot be viewed in isolation from my own work as a writer and filmmaker. I enjoy challenging my role as creator by adding elements over which I have little or no control. This sets up a relationship between authorship and chance, between control and irreversibility. I strive to articulate my human experience through my work, which becomes more accurate and more personal. The urgency to express myself stems from a feeling of human inadequacy; willing, but not able to do more.

My film Bodkin Ras, set in the Scottish town of Forres, makes use of both actors and documentary characters. One of these characters is Eddie, a local Scot who drinks away his days in the Eagle Bar. His sons both hung themselves at a young age. When we hear Eddie speak in interview form he talks about how he longs for change. The first step would be to stop drinking, but his desire remains abstract. We see him entering the same pub every morning, and he is drunk before noon.

In my eyes, the fact that Eddie does exactly what he doesn’t want to do every day and is fully aware of it makes him very human. His story resonates with the abstract desires of the spectator because it’s so recognisable. And despite the fact that everything we see points to the opposite, there is nevertheless hope. The film ends with the words: “I will try.”

Such paradoxes are not strange for humans. We often want one thing, yet we do something else. We try although no one has said that we will succeed. And then try to heroify our failure and make it into a meaningful narrative, packaging it as a sign of our intransigence. And our failure is never a permanent failure, because hope always glimmers on the horizon; if there is one thing that nobody can take away from us it is our hope.

The glorification of impotence

I participate fully in this paradox as a filmmaker and storyteller. I am convinced that regardless of our place in the whole, our human experiences are worthy of articulation. Why? Because we happen to be the only ones who undergo these unique experiences and are able to express and convey them to our contemporaries and future generations.

I have started to wonder if there might be ‘more’. A human mission to further evolve into better beings with greater self-knowledge and capacity. Artificial Intelligence that — unlike me — doesn’t need to hide behind the glorification of human inefficiency and impotence.

How should we think about a world in which human interests no longer have the highest priority? Where technological progress and innovation would not be (primarily) at the service of humans? Would an AI that does not struggle between its inner world and its outer presence have the need to write novels? That is doubtful. Drama belongs to humans. To think about an intelligence that is not characterised by failure is also to think about the end of our human narrative.

Keep running

We are far from this point. The technology is still ours, and we control the playing field. The champagne will flow: the exhibition is open, as colourful and vibrant as fireworks. The hair is curlier than usual. There is running, playing and building. I observe children who have been raised with love, and hope that they will not later push me off the roof. I make a note to my future self in a little notebook:

There is no fort to defend. The surrender is complete. I am virtually present in many places; sensational impulses shoot through my brain. Existence is fragmented and abstract. Keep running, keep breathing. Time can multiply infinitely in this inhuman orbit. Keep running. Sooner or later it will be there. It won’t be long. Keep breathing. It will be heavenly.