The transdisciplinary Autumn School AI Anarchies brings together global communities of artists, scholars, cultural producers and culture hackers, technologists, and activists. It will focus on creating new modes of feeling, thinking and relating to the topic of AI Ethics. Through talks, performances, screenings, and participatory workshops, attendees will be asked to contribute to collective discussion about AI technologies and the social, cultural, and political realities they emerge from and shape.
In their book The Classroom is Burning, Let’s Dream about a School of Improper Education (2020), the Kunci Study Forum & Collective from Yogyakarta, Indonesia, write of their interpretation of study, a concept theorized by Fred Moten and Stefano Harney. They deploy study through improper speculative research. They think together in the classroom to create a forum for social change. Inspired by their vision and practice, the AI Anarchies Autumn School hopes to channel their spirit of “improper learning” to the consideration of AI.
We first take up AI Ethics as a catalyst for such study. For all the big dreams of what AI could have been, human relations abstracted through AI remain awfully small. We know this from how easy it is to confuse a driverless test car, or when hate speech and dog whistles remain blithely undetected by natural language processing models. AI Ethics can feel like Big Tech’s half hearted promise to self-regulate, while maintaining the steady course into a future it has designed. All the while, machine learning systems are nurtured to scale. Correcting AI’s harms has become a mantra, a drum to beat publicly; the work of correction is taken up, predictably, by the communities of people most likely to be affected. We’re nudged to choose, read, and consume as strongly suggested. Our intellectual and cultural labor are extracted by them with ease. We live in a mirrored funhouse, cannibalized by and feasting upon our own preferences.
In this context, “Ethics in AI” means a correcting course for human action, narrowly conceived and steadily bent toward the fulfillment of computational tasks. We’re managed down into a relation with small, engineered, machine worlds, abstracted from the mess of our lived reality and ethics. We know – from the arts, from philosophy – that ethics is a relationship, and politics a manifestation of those relationships in multiple forms. No one person, discipline, or community alone can speak to “ethics” – and there are no ethics without a situation in place, time, and body. The site of ethics is not only in the individual. Ethics is a matter of relation to others, and negotiating that relation, that bond, that connection, to people beyond oneself.
Even as the world turns and burns, resistance and refusal of past, present, and future hegemonies flower. Even as global, planetary crises unfold through legacies of state, industrial, and algorithmic hegemonies, there is still space for delight and intellectual joy. Our collective and personal selves are constituted through and riven by digital logics, sitting atop long histories of violence. We still try to explore what it might mean to live ethically with technology now. We still make art, write and think in a world commandeered by technological design.
The JUNGE AKADEMIE’s Autumn School will offer spaces, ideas, and methods to determine what escapes relentless computability. What still slips through? How can an anarchic AI – and an embrace of what’s anarchic in AI – turn us to new possibilities for the design of future algorithmic spaces, and life alongside and within them? “Anarchies,” here, are not to be confused with “default opposites” of what we know and have at play, meaning, they are not anti-AI or anti-computation. They are values and ideas that render the familiar unthinkable. They simulate all the ways our current conditions of technology, geopolitics, and markets are incompatible with collective thriving. Anarchies transform conventional ambitions and moralities into their inverses. They spell the end of established patterns of knowing and relating. AI Anarchies might have rhythms and gestures that simply choose not to foreground AI and its logics. They purposefully stimulate overlaps of refusal and repair, no-futurisms and neo-Luddisms, decoloniality and feminism, degrowth and fugitivity, and abolitionist, anti-caste politics.
Over the course of one week, we will bring together creative practitioners of all kinds – artists, writers, activists, cultural theorists – to (un)think the ambitions, imaginaries, and infrastructures that AI currently inhabits and shapes. We take up AI as a philosophical and creative provocation. This allows us to take stock of and refresh our relationships to each other, and to our past and future selves. We want to create a space to consider AI as a prompt to abandon positive and positivist visions of the future, for necessary disregard, for meaningful resistance in a time of an overdetermined computational life. By consciously moving beyond a re-statement of the status quo of solutions, of solutionist discourse, we insist on undoing our own positions. We take claims to expertise lightly. We emphasize that everything that is valued can lose its value overnight. AI fails. The AI spring turns into another AI winter. To entertain fantasies of such failure in a school setting is anarchic. We hope to turn away from focusing solely on what an ethical AI should be, and turn to the anarchic, strange, and improper AIs we also might dream of.
The JUNGE AKADEMIE’s AI Anarchies Autumn School will foreground hard conversations, nurture alliances, and spark modes of feeling and relating across practitioner and intellectual communities. While remaining fully immersed in the social and political contexts generated prior to and by AI, the School looks to discursive, experimental schools and styles of pedagogy that were relatively anarchic. It takes up as its model the schools that questioned the dominant models of teaching in their time.
The School brings together global communities of artists, scholars, cultural producers and culture hackers, technologists, and activists. It takes up contemporary “AI Ethics” as a catalyst to seed new modes of feeling, thinking, and relating. Through talks, performances, screenings, and participatory workshops, attendees will be asked to contribute to collective discussion about AI technologies and the social, cultural, and political realities they emerge from and shape.
The School will be organised in relation to three parts of the day: provocative morning debates in which leading thinkers publicly develop new positions; afternoon workshops as a collective practice of propositions, a way of conducting research with one another; followed by evening performances, lectures, and screenings in which the day’s conversations unravel toward new, sideways reflections. Workshop registration for the study group is closed.
The AI Anarchies project is initiated and curated by Clara Herrmann & coordinated by Nataša Vukajlović.