Text by Irem Erkin
Could democracy for the people, by the people, be restructured and empowered by the non-human? Involving AI in democracies is a very complex, evolving debate. AI has the potential to enhance democratic processes and improve decision-making by processing large amounts of data and providing insights that can inform policy decisions. And also, AI-powered platforms can increase participation and engagement of citizens.
On the other hand, AI could be used to spread misinformation and manipulate public opinion, which could undermine the integrity of elections and democratic processes. thus, the AI decision-making process may revert to a disadvantage and lead to biases and discrimination against certain groups of people.
In their recent solo exhibition Sapient at Gazelli Art House in London, Recycle Group, formed by artists Andrey Blokhin and Georgy Kuznetsov, deliver visions of a utopia conjured up by an eternal artificial intelligence. Reflecting on the power imbalances and opacity of current governmental structures, the artists conceived ‘Sapient’, an imaginary open-code algorithm combining the will of the living and the infinite, to enact a bureaucratic ruling mechanism.
The artists explore the idea of supplanting an orthodox government with transparent democracy, steered by real people and sustained by post-death data and consciousness uploads to ‘The Meta-World’. For their creative process, they employed AI by providing their references to different AI generators, selecting the most relevant images, and combining them into the picture that we used to create a relief, which they then crafted by cutting layer by layer from polycarbonate plastic and assembled using a 3D program.
They question how the world could exist in total collaboration between humans and AI, with AI playing a key role in the creation of the images that form the basis for the 3D reliefs featured in the exhibition. Looking to the future, they envisage a world where AI can be even more efficient and humanistic than humans, as machines were originally created to improve our lives, not to harm us. This is the Utopia where transparency and democracy are the guiding principles, enabling us to live harmoniously with AI technology.
Recycle Group had previously explored the idea of iconography in 2015’s Conversion, a satellite event for the ‘56th Venice Biennale’ where social media symbols replaced religious imagery. In Sapient, icons are replaced by a neutral intelligence system, and life after death is achievable via the metaverse.
The artists also have explored the emergence of the third world – the virtual beyond the material and spiritual – and how AI could facilitate a dialogue between earthly and spiritual concepts such as democracy and religion.
With AI’s ability to provide a kind of immortality through the creation of avatars or advanced chatbots based on personal experiences and circumstances, the web space could potentially take on the role of religion by offering eternal life. Imagine having a virtual conversation with your great-grandfather, who could offer advice based on his experiences. This is just one way in which AI can bridge the gap between the earthly and the spiritual.
In light of the current problems with democracy, transitioning towards AI solutions requires starting with a demo version and sharing the concept with people, followed by building chains of decisions based on existing precedents and laws. It’s then important to allow people to correct these decisions and train AI to improve itself.
This may take years, but could ultimately result in an advanced and efficient tool. Through the lens of the exhibition Sapient, Recycle Group envisages a ‘utopia’ in which, rather than giving power to a single entity, an advanced and transparent AI with a humanistic approach could be the best future solution.