Human Entities 2020: culture in the age of artificial intelligence is a public conversation programme focused on technological change and its impacts - on the ways in which technology and culture influence each other. The fourth edition of this cycle organised by CADA consists of four talks on November 5, 12, 19 and 26. In English, these talks are taking place on Thursdays in the courtyard of Sinel de Cordes Palace, a cultural centre promoted by the Lisbon Architecture Triennale. Admission is free, subject to prior registration and the use of a mask is mandatory.
SYNOPSISDuring the pandemic we’ve seen the encroachment of technology into everyday life accelerate. Yet after years of grandiose claims about technological solutions to all the world’s problems, general responses to the virus by the tech giants remain more than disappointing. While many national governments struggle to cope, the earnings of Silicon Valley continue to exceed all expectations.
These are strange times ─ and this is a particularly transitional moment. But even before covid-19, it was often said that we were living through fundamental change. This was already a period in which a set of challenges, above all environmental destruction, was forcing us to recognise that many of our dominant values are unsustainable. In the context of technological change, political crises and deepening societal imbalances continue to prove that many of our complex systems are at the limit of their reproducibility ─ the relationships both between humans and humans and their environment need urgent renegotiation.
And yet around the world we see a multitude of positive experiments and processes where local government, citizens, businesses and universities are coming together to engage in novel initiatives at the local level which may also have relevance at a national and global scale. Amid the current crisis new thinking is emerging everywhere.
Perhaps then, this is also the time in which we should attend to the process of change itself, although recognising that social transformations are characterised by complex configurations of actors. With respect to technology, while it is hard to examine such configurations ─ because, as we know, the frameworks through which we view technology are technologically mediated themselves ─ we should use this time to pause and acknowledge our own involvement in perpetuating untenable social and cultural norms.
Finally, in a state of growing uncertainty, maybe we could stop to consider how this condition could be a driver for positive transformations in society, technology, economics and in the behaviour of people. Despite the temporary sense many have of being trapped in the present, we might also reflect on how to adopt a greater acceptance of uncertainty, one which will allow us to edge towards more desirable futures.
CADA (Sofia Oliveira/Jared Hawkey)
Wednesday, 4 November 2020*The talk dives into the impalpable atmosphere of everyday urban life, through which we breathe, experience, and feel the city. In times of aesthetic capitalism, politics of fear, ubiquitous computing, and airborne diseases, this inconspicuous background has become the battleground of urban politics. Digital technologies, branded imaginaries and normative regulations increasingly weave into this hazy everyday, deeply affecting the corporeal, emotional and intellectual paths through which we navigate the city.
18:30 - 20:30
navigating the urban fog: on urban adaptation
Researcher at DINÂMIA'CET ISCTE-IUL
How to make sense of this ongoing reconfiguration of urban experience? Three dimensions may be highlighted: the imperative of adaptation at the core of neoliberal ideology; the politics of comfort informing the engineering of safe and pleasurable atmospheres in the city; and the systemic delegation of intellectual, emotional and ethical urban skills to techno-legal proxies, that feeds functional stupidity, social anxiety, and existential disorientation. After unpacking their composition and the political consequences thereof, the talk will conclude, tentatively, by gesturing towards ways to experience the urban otherwise.
Andrea Pavoni is a research fellow at DINÂMIA'CET, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, Portugal. Unfolding at the intersection between critical geography, social theory, and philosophy, his research explores the relation between materiality, normativity and aesthetics in the urban context. He is editor of the Law and the Senses Series (University of Westminster Press) and associate editor of the journal Lo Squaderno, Explorations in Space and Society. His book, Controlling Urban Events. Law, Ethics and the Material, is out on Routledge.
*The event was rescheduled brought forward by 24 hours to 4.11.2020, at 18.30, due to weather forecast.
Thursday, 12 November 2020
18:30 - 20:30
River systems and the molecular body
Curator, researcher and activist
Can we actually trace the exact perimeter of a river’s molecular cartography and the extent of the consequences that these systems of catalytic flux have within and outside living bodies? River systems and their surrounding infrastructures are enormous hydrogeological, chemical and electromagnetic systems that connect their surrounding inhabitants and ecosystems through an irreverent flux of discharges and motions that humans attempt to tame through flowage rights and coastal restoration projects. Hence, aquatic and riverine infrastructures are essential points of departure for system analysis and reflection about the bodies and ecosystems, from the molecular through to the planetary scale. In attempting to understand the connection between river flux, noise, toxicity, and industrialization, I will focus on the habitats of the Mississippi and the Tagus rivers, questioning how the level of background noise and chemical imbalance may be connected with endocrinological disruptions. By investigating the chemical and vibrational continuity between bodies and the environment, I will speculate how different ontologies and mechanisms for sensing and registry might be needed, in order to provide a deeper debate about ecosystems under distress.
Margarida Mendes' research explores the overlap between cybernetics, ecology and experimental film, investigating environmental transformations and their impact on societal structures and cultural production. She is interested in exploring alternative modes of education and political resilience through her collaborative practice, programming, and activism. She was part of the curatorial team of the 11th Gwangju Biennale (2016), 4th Istanbul Design Biennial (2018), and 11th Liverpool Biennial (rescheduled for 2021). In 2019 she launched the exhibition series Plant Revolution! which questions the interspecies encounter while exploring different narratives of technological mediation and in 2016 curated Matter Fictions, publishing a joint reader with Sternberg Press. She is a consultant for environmental NGOs working on marine policy and deep sea mining and has directed several educational platforms, such as escuelita, an informal school at Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo - CA2M, Madrid (2017); The Barber Shop project space in Lisbon dedicated to transdisciplinary research (2009-16); and the ecological inquiry curatorial research platform The World In Which We Occur/Matter in Flux, (2014-18). She is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Research Architecture, Visual Cultures Department, Goldsmiths, University of London with the project “Deep Sea Imaginings” and is a frequent collaborator on the online channel for exploratory video and documentary reporting Inhabitants-tv.org.
Thursday, 19 November 2020
18:30 - 20:30
On minds and machines
Computational neuroscientist, director of the Champalimaud Neuroscience Programme
Brains and computers both perform computations, yet for the most part, their similarity ends there. Nervous systems have evolved over the last several hundred million years to support the survival of organisms in which they are situated. Man made computers exist due to theoretical and technical innovations of the 20th century, and are powerless without our explicit instruction. This talk will explore some of the features of nervous system structure and function, highlighting their differences and similarities when compared to computers and modern computer algorithms for machine learning and artificial intelligence.Joe Paton
Joe Paton, Ph.D., is a computational neuroscientist and director of the Champalimaud Neuroscience Programme at the Champalimaud Foundation in Lisbon, PT and co-director of the FENS-Cajal Advanced Training Course in Computational Neuroscience. Originally trained as a biologist, he received his doctoral degree in Neurobiology and Behavior from Columbia University. His research laboratory focuses on understanding the algorithms and neural circuit mechanisms underlying
Thursday, 26 November 2020
18:30 - 20:30
Green growth or Degrowth: climate action and human prosperity
Professor of Ecological Economics, University of Lausanne
New research from ecological economics shows that we need to rapidly physically degrow our economies to avoid the worst effects of climate breakdown. Green growth might have been at best a dream, at worst a narrative designed to delay action. What does this mean for human well-being and political action?
Prof. Steinberger researches and teaches in the interdisciplinary areas of Ecological Economics and Industrial Ecology at the University of Lausanne (previously University of Leeds). Her research examines the connections between resource use (energy and materials, greenhouse gas emissions) and societal performance (economic activity and human wellbeing). She is interested in quantifying the current and historical linkages between resource use and socioeconomic parameters, and identifying alternative development pathways to guide the necessary transition to a low carbon society. She is the recipient of a Leverhulme Research Leadership Award for her research project 'Living Well Within Limits' investigating how universal human well-being might be achieved within planetary boundaries. She is Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 6th Assessment Report with Working Group 3.