A Social History of Algorithms
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Frits Staal, Greek and Vedic geometry. Journal of Indian Philosophy 27(1), 1999, 111
What is an algorithm? Algorithms have been around since the beginning of time and existed well before a word had been coined to describe them. Join us for a special presentation by Matteo Pasquinelli, co-author of Beyond the Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI, as we explore the rich history and complexities of algorithms before the computer age and its present-day definitions.
The Babylonians used them for deciding points of law, Latin teachers used them to get the grammar right, and they have been used in all cultures for predicting the future, for deciding medical treatment, or for “preparing food” – mathematician Jean-Luc Chabert noted. Algorithms emerged from ritual practices and the organization of social life.
Similarly, today the algorithms of machine learning and AI emerge from personal data and collective behaviors. Even the most complex algorithms always emerge from material practices: they are emergent processes that materialize out of a previous and spontaneous division of space, time, labor, and social relations.
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About the Speaker
Matteo Pasquinelli (PhD) is Professor in Media Philosophy at the University of Arts and Design, Karlsruhe, where he is coordinating the research group on Artificial Intelligence and Media Philosophy KIM. For Verso Books, he is preparing a monograph on the history of AI provisionally titled The Eye of the Master.
About the Exhibition
Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI examines how the current realities of AI and its applications challenge traditional understandings of the human-machine relationship, which have been locked into a discourse of imitation or likeness for centuries. In today’s AI-driven world, increasingly organized and shaped by algorithms that track, collect, and evaluate our data, the question of what it means to be human has shifted. Uncanny Valley is the first major exhibition to unpack this question through a lens of contemporary art and propose new ways of thinking about intelligence, nature, and artifice.
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