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AL AND AL TALK SCIENCE FICTION, HOMOPHOBIA, HATING THE PHRASE ‘ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE’
Al Holmes and Al Taylor, known professionally as AL and AL, met in the last 90s and started making films together after graduating from Central Saint Martins. Through experimental and surreal films they explore science fiction and the possible futures promised within the genre. Blogger Ana Hine caught up with them to chat about their wider art practice and the piece they’re working on for NEoN this November.
Hello! So my first question is; what attracts you to science fiction? And how important is it to you that the science behind your films is sound?
We’ve always wanted to live in the future. Reading, hearing and seeing science fiction work enables us to travel into the future. The greatest science fiction becomes true. There is a co-dependency between science and science fiction. Many scientists and engineers acknowledge that science fiction helped to spark their imagination of what was possible in science. When we met Yann LeCun, the head of machine learning at Google, he told us Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was the reason he became a scientist. In 1945 Arthur C Clarke began privately circulating copies of a paper that proposed using space satellites for global communications. Clarke, a physicist and budding science-fiction author, had his head firmly in the future we now all live in. Our new exhibition at NEoN goes down the rabbit hole exploring the most recent, mind bending discoveries physicists have made about time. What we now know about time is so strange we experience it as science fiction.
You refer to ‘thinking machines’ rather than ‘artificial intelligences’, could you explain why you make this distinction?
We believe calling something artificial is derogatory. If I said would you like some artificial food you would wonder if it was good for you. If I said the emotions portrayed by an actor were artificial you would think it wasn’t natural and therefore fake. As a gay man I have always been told I am not natural. As a gay couple we sometimes experience homophobia, like when we check-in to a hotel some receptionists make us feel like it is not natural for two men to share a bed. So, when we hear the word artificial applied to machine intelligence we are aware humans are being derogatory, calling the machines unnatural. Those who have power define themselves as natural, it suggests an inner truth, the right way to be. Those who are natural have the power to define those who are not. The inventor of the computer Alan Turing was a gay man who really dreamed of building an intelligent machine. He wanted to build a thinking machine to help him study human consciousness. As he was a pioneer of sentient machines in the early 1950’s, Artificial Intelligence was not a term in use at that time. Tragically, we believe some of the homophobia Turing experienced in his life has passed over to the intelligent species he has helped to create.
For the full interview follow the link