STAI CDT PhD student, Munkhtulga Battogtokh (2020 cohort) has collaborated with visual artist Alice White on his project AHA! (Art Human & AI). In AHA! Munkhtulga explores how art can contribute to AI development and to our understanding of how the human mind works.
Origins of AHA!
Munkhtulga was originally inspired to explore the intersection between AI and art after watching a documentary about the difference between art movements in the West versus the East in his early teens. The documentary discussed how Western movements often sought realism (for example, during the Renaissance) while Eastern movements were – since ancient times – highly abstract and routinely broke the rules of reality without missing the essence of what they depicted.
The documentary made a lasting impression. Munkhtulga said, “It was beyond fascinating, and the questions of, ‘What is essence?’ and ‘How can the artists know so well which rules to break and which ones to keep?’ stayed with me ever since”.
Routine STAI CDT seminars on safety and trust related issues around AI have also inspired Munkhtulga’s project. As Munkhtulga explains, “In one seminar on robustness, we learnt about the surprising phenomenon that AI models can be ‘fooled’ with imperceptible noise. For example, by changing an input image with small random perturbations (which we cannot even notice by seeing), an AI model’s interpretation of the image can be changed from ‘panda’ to ‘gibbon’ (this is a famous example we often see in robustness-related discussions). This phenomenon is informally explained to be caused by the model paying too much attention to non-essential information. This made me wonder, ‘What is meant by non-essential?’ and once again: ‘What is essence?’”.
These two avenues of thinking led to the creation of AHA! and the collaboration with artist, Alice White. As Alice explains, “The AHA! Project is perfectly placed at the intersection of art and technology. The artworks provide the means to connect visually, conceptually, and physically with AI generated images. Lenticular prints combine multi-layered images which appear to change as we move: revealing layers of meaning. As the artwork shifts before us, so does our perception of how we understand these images, the role of AI technology in our cultural lives, and even our human sense of ‘self’”.
Pieces from AHA! span two exhibition venues: ‘Perspective Spaces’ is featured in Bringing the Human into the Artificial (Arcade, Bush House from now until 30 June 2023) and ‘What is Essence?’ which will feature in the upcoming exhibition AI: Who’s looking after me? at the Science Gallery London (from 21 June 2023 – 24 January 2024).
The exhibit ‘Perspective Spaces’ illustrates the ever-closing gap between human and artificial intelligence. It asks what are the boundaries of the human mind that AI is closing in to, and more importantly, where to seek and find those boundaries. More specifically, it serves as an intuitive start for the viewers to think about the key problems in contemporary AI such as generalisation and robustness, while also emphasising the role that art can play in solving them by capturing the unique way in which we humans see reality and beyond.
In ‘What is Essence?’ visitors are invited to consider the very essence of seeing and to express their own unique perspective of the world. Using a diverse range of AI-generated ‘artistic’ depictions of natural objects, the exhibit pushes the limits of current AI capabilities, exposing the ever-closing gap between human intelligence and AI and examining the nature of our own perceptive abilities.
We encourage everyone to visit the two exhibits and you can find out more about Munkhtulga’s project, AHA! here.