Bot Summit 2016

I had the pleasure of speaking at this years Bot Summit. The slides weren’t really visible in the original video recorded at the event, so I’ve taken the audio and added it to the presentation.

Bot Summit was organised by Darius Kazemi and held at the V&A London. The full summit video is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTPih7D0Jhg

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Algo Incantations

I recently had the pleasure at speaking at ‘Adventures on the edge of culture‘ with John Higgs, Melinda Gebbie, Alan Moore and others.

I wanted to create a new algorithmic work which could be distributed to the audience, and knowing they would be of an magickal bent, I entered Chapel Perilous and took a look at the True Will of the machine.

True Will is a term found within the mystical system of Thelema, a religion founded in 1904 with Aleister Crowley’s writing of The Book of the Law. It is defined at times as a person’s grand destiny in life, and at other times as a moment to moment path of action that operates in perfect harmony with Nature. This Will does not spring from conscious intent, but from the interplay between the deepest Self and the entire Universe.

(from wikipedia)

Crowley‘s famous aphorism ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” refers to this notion of True Will – if you are acting with your true will, you are in sync with the universe, and therefore whatever you do cannot be considered ‘wrong’.

Is a computer not, in some way, enacting its true will when it executes an algorithm? It can only do what it does, it has no other option – perhaps machines are more in tune with the universe than we are.

For this project, I took the incantations of the Necronomicon and produced a linguistic model capable of producing novel incantations.

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Another algorithm took each sentence and turned it into a sigil and arranged them into a geometric form.

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I then asked the machine to produce hundreds of unique incantations and sigils and distributed them to the audience.

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A manifestation of the True Will of the machine…

Some examples below, click to view full size.

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Disclaimer: Incant and/or charge these sigils at your own risk.

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What is it like to be a Bot?

My keynote at #pydataLondon from earlier this year has made it online:

What do we mean by intelligence? How do the limitations of language leave us floundering with regards to discussing our relationship with ‘algorithms’ and emerging machine intelligence? I argue that the limitations in the discourse surrounding AI are remarkably similar to the problems found in psychology and philosophy relating to other minds.

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Release The Wasps

Here’s a video of a talk I gave at the LetsGetReal conference last month.

Filmed by the talented Driftwood Productions

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2014 review of the year

Trite as it may be, the end of the year offers an opportunity to review our deeds, and plot future (mis)adventures. Herewith, a review of my year of aesthetic experimentation, 2014.

The year started with messing with the media of political discourse. Both David Cameron, our Prime Minister, and Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition, released ‘New Year’ messages. The blandification of British politics was laid bare by the similarities between the men and the vacuous messages. I’ve algorithmically blended politicians before, but this time I (mis)used the marvellous Echonest API to literally put their words into each other’s mouths.




I crashed my bike in February, getting knocked out, breaking some bones and being saddled with Trochlear Nerve Palsy. I subsequently spent 5 months with an eyepatch, inciting pirate jokes wherever I went. Not much art was produced for a while as a result, and I had to learn to paint with one eye. I did manage to speak at #pydata, whilst still somewhat concussed.

Inspired by the lies and clickbait which seem to make up much of the internet, I released a lying twitterbot. @factbot1 makes up facts, finds a suitable image, and posts them online every 4 hours. The account is still running, and as I write this has just produced it’s 1,500th lie.

Then there was @hipsterbait1 – an experiment in algo-commerce. Could a bot produce a work, and offer it for sale through a third party, automatically, without any human intervention? The bot produces t-shirts that mash up images and references, primarily in the domain of band t-shirts. Unfortunately, my plans to retire on my algo-generated fortune were nixed when Zazzle quickly refused to actually print them.

bffbot1

June brought one of the more sophisticated bots of the year, @bffbot1, an algorithmic stalker who aimed to be your best friend, writing you poems and spotting you in the street. She was very popular, particularly with the Turkish (not sure why) until she was killed by Twitter in October.


September was filled with curating and producing The New Sublime at Brighton Digital Festival – a fantastic group show of some of the finest artists working with digital technology.

It was a busy month where I finished a series of 13 paintings called ‘pissed off primates‘, and embarked on a brief international speaking tour which took me to Canada, London and Bournemouth.


At the end of October I produced another bot which also fell foul of Twitter – a simulation of social infection called @algobola

I also knocked up a bot with all the answers, painted Rik Mayall and Chris TT. I got some robots to perform Waiting for Godot, built systems to scrape folk fan art from twitter, compress great works of fiction, and most recently excise the face of Nigel Farage.



So that’s my 2014 in a nutshell, expect more of the same in 2015 – follow me on Twitter and be amongst the first to know…

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