Independently thinking machines have captivated the human imagination since at least the nineteenth century, mostly in two opposing imaginaries: will they unlock a new, ideal world where labour, inequality and war are mere memories? Or will they bring about a doomsday scenario in which robots eventually take control? In reality, algorithms and machine learning can be found everywhere in the 21st century, but most people do not know how they work.
The Future Through Artificial Eyes marks the 20th anniversary of the Dutch television programme VPRO Tegenlicht. VPRO Tegenlicht and Het Nieuwe Instituut have collaborated with artist and designer Richard Vijgen in analysing visions of the future via the social, economic and technological developments of the 21st century by focussing specifically on the capacity of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to recognise patterns in images.
At the heart of the exhibition is a multimedia installation designed by Vijgen in which an AI trained to find patterns in images scans 20 years of VPRO Tegenlicht broadcasts and points out what it recognises. Visitors can influence the outcome by playing with the way the ‘artificial eye’ views the programme’s archive.