[ISEA2019] Artist Statement: David Young – Learning Nature

Artist Statement

Archival inkjet prints, 30×30 cm.

Is it inevitable that only our largest organizations, with their vast data sets, will decide how we will use AI? What if, instead, we could start small, to work at the scale of the personal, and to engage directly with AI? Could doing so allow us to develop new intuitions and understandings of what the technology is, and what it could enable?                                                                        Learning Nature is a set of photographs generated by an Artificial Intelligence (AI), taught with David Young’s photographs of upstate flowers using a GAN(Generative Adversarial Network)-an artificial intelligence/machine learning technology. Learning Nature started out in the hope of creating a new perspective towards AI and exploring new possibilities through an aesthetic experience. Young states that AI was utilized as a tool in Learning Nature in the rural context of upstate New York and the domain of nature where the painting was used to express the relationship between mankind and nature at Hudson River School. The result is a unique interpretation of AI visually drawn out, which not only captures the machine’s understanding of the subject but also raises questions on the subject of interpretation and misinterpretation of nature. With Learning Nature, it is intended to rethink about what it would mean for an AI today to understand/interpret that same nature, further pointing to the anthropomorphizing of technology, data, and the human “intelligence” in the code.

  • David Young has spent his entire career at the leading edge of emerging technologies. His current work explores how beauty and aesthetic experiences can give a fresh start to how we think about new technologies. This work, which uses AI and machine learning, is a return to his roots where he began his career at the height of the 1980’s AI boom. David has a masters degree in visual studies from the MIT Media Lab, and a bachelors degree in computer science from UCSC (University of California, Santa Cruz, USA).