Trienal de Arquitectura de Lisboa
15 SEP 2021 - 21 OCT 2021
Palácio Sinel de Cordes
Free Admission
Inês Cisneiros, Alexandre Estrela, Merlin Sheldrake, Jennifer Gabrys
Organised by CADA in partnership with Lisbon Architecture Triennale

Programme financed by: República Portuguesa – Cultura / Direção-Geral das Artes

Support: Lisbon City Hall, NOVA LINCS

Design: Marco Balesteros (LETRA)

Additional info
Event with prior-registration

Human Entities 2021 © Marco Balesteros

Human Entities 2021

Culture in the age of artificial intelligence

This 5th edition proposes a programme of conversations, which take place in the courtyard of the Palace between September and October 2021. With free entry, Human Entities is organised by the collective CADA in partnership with the Lisbon Architecture Triennale.

Curatorial Approach

What we want from technology is rarely discussed. Yet, earlier this year the European Commission published proposed regulations on artificial intelligence (AI). Once adopted, the ‘Artificial Intelligence Act’ (AIA) will become the world’s first legal framework for AI. The legislation is intended to protect digital human rights and guard against digital authoritarianism. 

Whether this new law will constrain or consolidate the power of technology companies remains to be seen. To date, operating without regulation, corporate investment in AI technologies has brought immense potential. For instance, DeepMind’s* recent breakthrough in predicting protein structures is extraordinary. Meanwhile in daily life artificial intelligence infuses everything around us; it’s in our phones and in our homes. Its presence in technical and socio-political infrastructures is already transforming human lives and environments.

Many private sector initiatives to wire forests and oceans intend well. Despite Microsoft’s grandiose aim to build ‘A Planetary Computer for a sustainable future’, its AI for Earth is a genuine attempt to enable greater efficiencies for the common good. Here, as in wider society, the prevailing worldview remains rooted in the belief that policy reform, capitalism and more computation will save the planet. But for those of us who doubt this configuration, the struggle is to establish another agenda. For those of us who believe the climate crisis is existential, finding a solution is a struggle in itself.

Although it's hard to imagine the present otherwise, we must continue to question how we arrived here. Alongside critique, we must view the current context afresh and act as if positive change is possible. We need to trespass into other areas of knowledge and forge new connections. Above all, we should allow ourselves to expand experience and encounter other worlds within those we already know.

CADA (Jared Hawkey/Sofia Oliveira)

*DeepMind is an artificial intelligence company acquired by Google which used its AlphaFold programme to solve a great 50-year old challenge. This AI system can predict the protein structures of the human body — a discovery that enables biologists to better understand diseases and develop new drugs.


Wed 15 September 2021, 18.30
The European Union's regulatory framework for Artificial Intelligence
Inês Cisneiros, Lawyer

On her appointment as President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen made regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) a top priority. In her view legislation is fundamental to safeguard the European Union’s citizens’ fundamental rights and encourage investment in safe innovation and technological development. As a result, in April 2021, the European Commission presented a proposal which when approved would prohibit harmful AI practices and impose restrictions on high-risk AI systems.

This ethical stance will position the EU against the lack of regulation in the US and state control in China. From Cambridge Analytica to the recent Project Pegasus, from facial recognition to social credit system, it is increasingly apparent that the abusive use of digital computation compromises human rights. So, how would this regulation protect citizens in the context of a globalised society? Could the European strategy influence worldwide adoption of good AI practices? How does this proposal relate to the General Data Protection Regulation?

A conversation on what will be solved and what remains to be answered by this proposal includes the participation of Eduardo Santos (D3 – Associação dos Direitos Digitais, a Portuguese digital rights association) and João Leite (NOVA LINCS, Associate Professor, Computer Science Department, NOVA University Lisbon). The talk will be in English and followed by a Q&A session.

Inês Cisneiros
She is a practising lawyer at Miranda e Associados and an elected member of the deliberative body of the Portuguese green party LIVRE. She holds post-graduate qualifications in Intellectual Property, Information Society, Data Protection and Bioethics and is currently completing a Master’s degree in Political Philosophy, at the School of Social Sciences and Humanities of NOVA University Lisbon (FCSH-UNL). She studied issues regarding artificial moral agency and the need for responsible design for the Master’s Practical Ethics seminar. Her Master’s dissertation will focus on issues regarding democratic engagement across generations, touching on the political impacts of technology.

Wed 22 September 2021, 18.30
Artist talk
Alexandre Estrela, Artist

A conversation about the parallel communication (or the lack of it) between Art and Science in the context of the work of Alexandre Estrela. This includes the collaboration with Moita Lab from the Champalimaud Neuroscience Programme, the Company Orange and the Human Language Technology Laboratory INESC-ID/IST. 

Alexandre Estrela will be in conversation with Jared Hawkey and Sofia Oliveira. The talk will be in English and followed by a Q&A session.

Alexandre Estrela
Estrela’s work is an investigation into the essence of images that expands spatially and temporally through different media. In his videos and installations Estrela examines the subject’s psychological reactions to images in their interaction with matter. Each piece brings together synaesthetic experiences, visual and sound illusions, aural and chromatic sensations that function as perceptual traps, leading the subject towards conceptual levels. With this strategy Estrela constantly splits vision into further sensible dimensions towards the unseen and the unheard. Recent solo exhibitions include All and Everything, Rufino Tamayo Museum, Mexico City, 2020, Métal Hurlant, Foundation Gulbenkian, Paris, 2019, Cápsulas de silêncio, Reina Sofía Museum, Madrid, 2016, Roda Lume, M HKA, Antwerp, 2016, Meio Concreto, Serralves Museum, Porto, 2013, among others. His next show, Flat Bells, will be shown at MoMA, New York, in 2022.

Tue 28 September 2021, 18.30
Entangled Life: a conversation with Merlin Sheldrake
Biologist and writer, author of Entangled Life

In his new book, Entangled Life, How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures, Merlin Sheldrake provides us with a compelling set of insights into the mysterious world of fungal networks.

‘Sheldrake’s mind-bending journey [...] ranges from yeast to psychedelics, to the fungi that sprawl for miles underground and are the largest organisms on the planet, to those that link plants together in complex networks known as the ‘Wood Wide Web’, to those that infiltrate and manipulate insect bodies with devastating precision’. An understanding of fungal networks reveals how life originated on the planet with profound consequences on how we understand intelligence, our relationship with the environment, and our future.

Merlin Sheldrake will be online in conversation with Olivier Perriquet, a visual artist with a background in computational biology, who will be present. Both speakers will also engage the audience at the event. The talk is in English and followed by a Q&A session.

Merlin Sheldrake
Merlin is the bestselling author of Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures. Merlin received a Ph.D. in tropical ecology from Cambridge University for his work on underground fungal networks in tropical forests in Panama, where he was a predoctoral research fellow of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. He is a research associate of the Vrije University, Amsterdam, and sits on the advisory board of the Fungi Foundation and the Society for the Protection of Underground Networks. 

Wed 21 October 2021, 18.30
Sensing Smart Forests
Jennifer Gabrys, Chair in Media, Culture and Environment in the Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge

Forests are increasingly sensorized environments. Whether in the form of camera traps to monitor organisms or the Internet of Things to detect wildfires, there are an array of sensor technologies that observe and constitute forests in relation to scientific inquiry, Indigenous land claims, environmental governance, and disaster prevention and mitigation. 

This presentation will investigate the sensory arrangements that Smart Forests generate. It will ask how sensory infrastructures materialise as distributions of power and governance, while considering the sensory practices that transform and potentially re-constitute dominant regimes of perception toward other inhabitations and milieus.
Jennifer Gabrys will be online with a live connection to the venue. Her talk will be in English and followed by a Q&A session. 

Jennifer Gabrys
Gabrys is Chair in Media, Culture and Environment in the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge. She leads the Planetary Praxis research group and is Principal Investigator on the ERC-funded project, Smart Forests: Transforming Environments into Social-Political Technologies. She also leads the Citizen Sense and AirKit projects, which have both received funding from the ERC (European Research Council). She writes on digital technologies, environments and social life, with recent publications including How to Do Things with Sensors (2019) and Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet (2016).

All welcome, free entry, booking required here.