Theory & Context
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” - Arthur C Clarke
I guess our project starts with the above quote from Arthur C Clarke. There are fewer variations of the quote but they all essentially mean the same thing in different ways. Even now if we took some of our advanced technology back 500 years, without any understanding of how it works they would think it was magic. We were wondering if Project today could bring a little bit of mystery and magic from technology.
The advanced technology we would like to explore is AI and big data. There have been many predictions made about AI and about its potential. Interestingly yeah maybe the closest thing we get to otherworldly, ethereal, immaterial entity to your average person. We believe that in the future, AI will seem like magic.
Hydromancy is yet another early type of divination that goes back centuries and entails the utilization of water to convey messages. Water is a metaphor of creation associated with the movement of the mutual unconsciousness, also referred to as the matrix of experience, Grid Harmonics, Akashic Records, Hall of Records, etc. within realism. We observed this as a method of linking with outer entity. We think there might be a way of bringing together hydromancy and AI for connecting to a AI, is if it was a divine entity. (Occultopedia, 2011)
AI is of course capable of obtaining patterns from large amounts of data and this is able to draw conclusions from those patterns that a human could never do. Seers and diviners do not exist in the real world but given the future of AI this may be the closest way we will ever get to having a divine entity instructing us. To some people AI may be the most trustworthy thing we communicate with.
“Artificial intelligence may be last invention we ever make”
Once we reached the point where it can improve itself It will likely out stripper own intellect very quickly. Artificial intelligence will become more involved in its own improvements than we will be.
We wanted to build a device that blurred the lines between contemporary technology and magic. To create a system that offered “divine knowledge” to the user, for the aim of improving conversation. Ritualised meetings and conversations.
The Art of Conversation
Conversation is the most essential talent in everyday life. You devote many years discovering how to read and write, and years finding out how to talk. People do not receive any explicit training on listening to another person genuinely, so that we can actually comprehend another individual. One of our projects primary focuses is on improving conversation.
Most individuals, seek initially to be comprehended; you wish to secure your own point across. And in doing this, you might pay no attention to the other individual entirely. You might act like you're paying attention, selectively listen to only particular elements of the discussion or even carefully concentrate on just the words and phrases being said, yet miss the meaning completely. Since many people listen with the intention to respond, not to comprehend. You pay attention to yourself when you prepare in your head what you will be going to say, the queries you could ask, etc. You filter everything you listen to via your lifetime experiences, your own frame of reference. You examine the things you listen to against your autobiography and refer to how it measures up. And consequently, you determine prematurely what the other individual means before he/she finishes talking. (Celeste Headlee, 2015)
Another focus on this project was to remove the echo chamber effect from conversation full stop the echo chamber effect is when a group of people with no new information will sometimes believe things that are not true or have been exaggerated. If Republicans and Democrats were placed in different groups and each group was asked to talk about a derogatory rumor regarding the other party. The conversation during these debates would polarised expected directions. While the conversation groups were blended, this would not occur. This is to say that when we have views from both sides of the argument, the conversation leans towards the truth. A part of this project is to bring this other side of the argument to the table. (NPR, 2016)
Among like-minded individuals, it’s difficult to produce disagreements and arguments that challenge the group consensus, meaning group participants continue listening to arguments solely in a single direction. Additionally, the majority get “evidence” to authenticate speculations from friends or sources of data which they trust. The fact is, people across the political spectrum are likely to trust the news media (and "facts" provided by the media) less than their social group. So in the liberal blogosphere, it’s false rumors about Sarah Palin that enjoy wide circulation. (NPR, 2016)
In this project we are going to be collecting a lot of conversations and meetings. There is an ethical concern with doing this, We decided that it was ok to do this as the system is easy to opt in and opt out by simply walking away, people record meetings all the time and the only saying reading these conversations will be our highly advanced artificial intelligence.
In the course of this project we hope to build a database resource of every conversation. the idea of this project is to have a huge repository of conversations that our AI can analyse interpret and give contextual information back to the user. There is a potential for Artificial Intelligence analysis of this vast resource. It will discover hidden relationships and patterns and make results of analysis available for users, improving their conversations.
So in this project we are going to have a device listening to our conversation analysing it through IBM. A projector to project onto a bowl of water (Or some other non clear liquid), this will be used to show the results of the analysis from IBM. Such as contextually relevant information about the topic and also how well your conversation is going (there will be some light to indicate this).
“Economy of Data”
Design & prototyping
We went through many designs for how to build the font We did some sketches to visualise what we were talking about we also envisaged standing around it and discussing something over it. Through this we quickly realised that having any kind of fur supporting stand would be in the way of two people talking to each other. so we decided to suspend the projector and PI from the ceiling. We wanted a very understated contemporary look, kind of something that would be in place in a contemporary church. We also wanted to hide as much of the electronics as we possibly could. I had some trouble getting some of the materials back to Plymouth as you can see from the photo that it's kind of sticking into the back of my car (but no accidents so all good).
I'm very happy with what we achieved in this project. We managed to hide as much as the component as we possibly could. We used a foam block that had been hollowed out to hold a raspberry pie in the base of the project (this was to control the lights). We have a Raspberry Pi in the lampshade on the Ceiling that is listening to your conversation and is projecting onto the inch thick mist in the bowl. The reason we use the mist in the bowl was partly to make a more magical experience and partly due to the fact that we're trying to improve conversations. If you have a very loud and heated angry conversation you will wash away the mist on top and not be able to gain more information, this is a subtle way of calming a conversation down.
Also the device is always listening to your conversation. It is analysing your conversation for its topic contexts on effectiveness. it lets you know when your conversation is no longer effective using the Big Five personality traits. It notifies you (using the lights around the base) when you've gone off Topic. And Finally it provides additional information to your conversation from a database and from the wider Internet.
- IBM Developer Cloud.
- Personality Insights
- Speech To Text
- Browser - Front EndI
- Record audio
- Node Server - Heroku
- Font - Hardware
- J5 Robotics
- Display Lights
- Bing News API
- Database - MongoDB
Some of the IBM Services are either rubbish or very expensive. We attempted to use the alchemy news API but our tokens just kept running out immediately upon using them so we had to switch to Bing’s news API which worked much better. IBM's voice tax service is only designed for American accents which which makes it very frustrating when we tried to talk to it it's completely messed up you're trying to talk about the when we played as an American news station it got it perfectly. We also had trouble with corrupting the pies as we could not turned off properly for some reason so we're just forced to pull the plug which lead to problems in the SD cards. Also the Misters in the bowl with also get very hot and occasionally overheat. And lastly the media lab told us that the mini projector that we borrowed overheat if you leave it on for an hour. Despite these problems we managed to pull together a very clean Project.
The future potential of this project is in the big data. I feel it provides a certain value to the project that's I'm sure big companies and people would be very interested in. Also further integration of the data analysis to provide more useful and contextually relevant information would certainly improve our project in the future. if we are going to release something like this as a product (with a design change) The higher the adoption rate means that the more effective the analysis and therefore the more useful it is (kind of like a bank). we could also add more interactivity with gesture controls to clear the current topic or such like. we could also add music to influence conversation by calming people down or as a form of notification to help aid in your conversation.
Occultopedia, O. (2011) Hydromancy. [Online] Available from: http://www.occultopedia.com/h/hydromancy.htm [accessed 10 January 2017]
Celeste Headlee, C. (2015) 10 ways to have a better conversation. [Online] Available from: https://www.ted.com/talks/celeste_headlee_10_ways_to_have_a_better_conversation [accessed 10 January 2017]
NPR, N.P. (2016) The Reason Your Feed Became An Echo Chamber — And What To Do About It. [Online] Available from: http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/07/24/486941582/the-reason-your-feed-became-an-echo-chamber-and-what-to-do-about-it [accessed 10 January 2017]