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Artist Feature

Every week an artist is featured whose single image was published by Der Greif. The Feature shows the image in the original context of the series.

Guilherme Gerais - The Best of Mr.Chao

May 01, 2019

The Best of Mr.Chao aims to be a visual meditation on the future, dealing with invented situations, scientific discoveries at laboratories and universities, scenes of natural and artificial life, insects and microorganisms, robots and nest fragments. Through an interdisciplinary and non-linear narrative, the series gathers photographs on a certain scope: future, nature and technology.

The intention is to show how these subjects meet and overlap in time and space, which are not determined in the series. This is because, often, the images appear to be from a distant past or part of an obsolete technology. Sometimes the images are shown within technological proposals that are still under development, and in other cases, they emerge from the imagination of the photographer about an idea of the “future”.

 

In this game about how technology looks at a certain time, the series also discusses how nature inspires man’s scientific progress. Through natural computation, experts have been using the ancestral knowledge, intelligence, organization, collective habits and the logic of swarms, with the objective of developing mechanisms that facilitate the daily life of human beings.

How a type of fungi named Slime Mold finds its food in the most accurate and efficient way have inspired many studies regarding how a ‘brainless’ organism can build networks as complex as the subway systems of a big city like Tokyo. Or how bumblebees, ants or cockroaches can be the inspiration for an algorithm, as well as the physical aspects of magnetic fields and spirals.

Finally, The Best of Mr.Chao attempts “to reestablish our ties to non-human beings and to help us rediscover the playfulness and joy that can brighten the dark, strange loop we traverse”, as the philosopher Timothy Morton says.


Artist Blog

The blog of Der Greif is written entirely by the artists who have been invited to doing an Artist-Feature. Every week, we have a different author.

On consciousness, the brain and simulations.

May 07, 2019 - Guilherme Gerais

‘’A human being is a biorobot with a biocomputer in it, the brain. But we are not that brain, and we are not that body. A soul essence inhabits us, and, under acid, under K, under anesthesia, you’ll find that the essence isn’t tied to brain activity at all. Brain activity can be virtually flat, and you can be conscious — off somewhere in another realm. You just can’t communicate with people in consensus reality’’.

 

Interview with John C. Lilly by Judith Hooper. Omni Magazine. Jan 1983.

 

The brain is a subject of many studies, and although we’ve learned a lot about it, we are very far from uncovering many of its mysteries.

 

Brazilian scientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel recently discovered how many neurons there are in our brain. Her studies showed that African elephants have 257 billion neurons, three times more than us, with 86 billion neurons. For her, there is something that only humans do and it was decisive to accumulate so many neurons in the cerebral cortex: we cook.

 

7 million years ago the human brain was small, around 400 grs. Now it’s 7 times bigger than what it should be, and it spends 25% of the energy from our body, around 500 calories a day, whereas our body spends 2.000 calories a day.

 

 

Besides scientific research, there are many private corporations holding also studies on the brain, although their real goals are kept as secret. One example is Google Brain, where researchers are working on a simulation of the human brain. On 2012 they used 16.000 computers to identify the image of a cat.

 

During the ’50s, neurologist and psychoanalyst Dr.John C. Lilly held experiments with the human and animal brain. He developed the first isolation tanks, demonstrating that the brain continues to generate sensory data even when starved of sensory input.

 

On this video interview, we can see John C. Lilly speaking about some thoughts behind his research.

 

 

He also wrote this dream-like text where he speaks about his encounter with the ‘Masters of the Universe’.

 

Earth Coincidence Control Office (E.C.C.O.) by John Lilly

 

In one’s life, there can be peculiarly appropriate chains of related events that lead to consequences that are strongly desired. After such experiences, one wonders how such a series of events developed; sometimes there is a strong feeling that some intelligence (greater than ours) directed the course along certain lines which It/He/She was/is programming. Several years ago, I enunciated a format for such concatenations of events, somewhat:

 

“There exists a Cosmic Control Center (C.C.C.) with a Galactic substation called Galactic Coincidence Control (G.C.C.). Within which is the Solar System Control Unit (S.S.C.U.), within which is the Earth Coincidence Control Office (E.C.C.O.). The assignments of responsibilities from the top to the bottom of this system of control is by a set of regulations, which translated by E.C.C.O. for humans is somewhat as follows:”

To all humans: If you wish to control coincidences in your own life on the planet Earth, we will cooperate and determine those coincidences for you under the following conditions:

 

1) You must know/assume/simulate our existence in ECCO.

 

2) You must be willing to accept our responsibility for control of your coincidences.

 

3) You must exert your best capabilities for your survival programs and your own development as an advancing/ an advanced member of ECCO’s earthside corps of controlled coincidence workers. You are expected to use your best intelligence in this service

 

4) You are expected to expect the unexpected every minute, every hour of every day and every night.

 

5) You must be able to maintain conscious/thinking/ reasoning no matter what events we arrange to happen to you. Some of these events will seem cataclysmic/ catastrophic/overwhelming: remember to stay aware, no matter what happens/apparently happens to you.

 

6) You are in our training program for life: there is no escape from it. We (not you ) control the long-term coincidences; you (not we) control the shorter-term coincidences by your own efforts.

 

7) Your major mission on earth is to discover/create that which we do to control the long-term coincidence patterns: you are being trained on Earth to do this job.

 

8) When your mission on planet Earth is completed, you will no longer be required to remain/return there.

 

9) Remember the motto passed to us (from GCC via SSCU): “Cosmic Love is absolutely Ruthless and Highly Indifferent: it teaches its lessons whether you like/dislike them or not.”

 

A few years ago, I learned about the theory of Nick Bostrom, who is the founding Director of the Future of Humanity Institute. On this theory he says there’s one chance in a billion that we are the original species. He says that in the future, we will be able to create a perfect simulation of life, as we live, but in a digital realm. The ‘3D graphics’ will be so accurate that we won’t be able to differentiate what’s is real and what’s not plus we will be able to generate digital avatars completely consciousness of themselves, thus resulting in a perfect simulation of life.

 

Of course, for the ‘beings’ of this digital world, they won’t think they are living in a computer simulation. He wrote an interesting paper titled ‘‘Are You Living In A Computer Simulation?’’ where he argues that: ‘‘…at least one of the following propositions is true:

 

(1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage;

 

(2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof);

 

(3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor‐simulations is false unless we are currently living in a simulation…’’

 

Lastly on our quick tour on possible dimensions, the movie World on a Wire (1973) by German director Rainer Werner Fassbinderm, tells a story of realities within realities, where a researcher, working at the Institute of cybernetics and future science, begins to investigate the mysterious death of his mentor. He falls deep into the cover-up behind a computer capable of creating an artificial world with units living as human beings unaware that their world is just a computer projection.

 

 

As a further reading, I recommend these two articles, related to A.I, the brain, and consciousness.

 

https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-we-d-tell-you-to-hold-on-tight-while-reading-this-but-there-s-nothing-to-hold-onto-1.7164814?fbclid=IwAR0W1SaOaggzyDma1U4ae5N4Q3njZXMvFm1hLCeaDhgf7TMVqosPp8lyGxc

 

++ https://www.1843magazine.com/features/deepmind-and-google-the-battle-to-control-artificial-intelligence

 


Technical Imaging

May 05, 2019 - Guilherme Gerais

Ray Kurzweil, Google’s Director of Engineering, says that we are near a moment where ‘singularity’ will happen and “by 2029, computers will have human-level intelligence.” Other scientists say we are very far from being able to mimic the behavior of cockroaches.

 

According to Yuval Noah Harari, consciousness, feelings, creativity, and subjectivity might be our ‘personal weapon’ against all these new technologies.

 

Some think the world is going to be taken over by robots; some think AI is going to replace our brains; some thinks we will have to spiritualize ourselves in order to survive. The amount of opinions and voices speaking about the future is chaotic. Finding a way through is almost like choosing a religion: something you feel, you believe.

 

In this choosing process, you have to evaluate yourself, beliefs, imagination, your level of humanity. It seems every decision is life-changing, human-changing, and world-changing.

 

Speaking of the present, and speaking about ‘future paths of photography’: it’s necessary to be aware of the new ways of producing and consuming an image.

 

Medical equipment is often linked to high technological advancements. Due to the high costs of this industry and the high demand for fast and efficient solutions. They operate on a different level regarding image technology, together with other areas such as criminal investigation and surveillance.

 

The question is how does this type of image could affect photography? How this technology could be potentially incorporated into a photographic camera?  How it could be used in a photographic work?

 

Lastly, how can we subvert the use of these ‘technical apparatus’ and bring it into other contexts?

 

I have separated a few videos that raised my attention on this topic and could inspire further reflections.

 

Here we can understand better How an Ultrasound works and how it manages to achieve an image from inside the body.

 

 

Here we can see footage that investigates Invisible Cloaks, exhibiting a negative index of refraction.

 

 

The next video shows a brain activity record while the subject watches several hours of movie trailers and then, the reconstruction of this segment from brain activity measured using MRI.

 

 

This last video show two interactive technologies recently developed for multimodal perception and healthcare support. The platform enables an engaging face-to-face interaction where the virtual human automatically reacts to the perceived user state and intent, through its own speech and gestures.

 

 

A few contemporary artists, such as Trevor Plagen, Broomberg and Chanarin, Pierre Huyghe, and Richard Mosse utilizes often technological equipment out of the context from what it was made for. The resulting works are often intriguing, surprising and uncanny.

 

 

It can be suffocating, but it seems photography is being swallowed by data and technology; on the horizon, huge changes are coming: Virtual Reality, Deep Learning, Quantum Processors, Augmented Reality, Algorithms, Digital Implants, among others.

To study the future, it is a necessary step for photographers and for photography to survive as a medium. As the futurologist, Jim Dator says, “we are on the direction of many tsunamis of changes, and we have to learn how to surf these waves”.