The Innovators Club hosted a new speaker session on May 25th with Pau Garcia, the co-founder and director of Barcelona-based Domestic Data Streamers.
Since the beginning of his organization, Pau has been developing research and communication projects in data for institutions such as the United Nations, the California Academy of Science, the Tate Modern and the Citizen Lab. He is also co-director of ELISAVA’s Master in Data and Design and has taught at the Hong Kong Design Institute, the Royal College of Arts in London, the Politecnico di Milano and the University of Berkeley. He is also the founder of HeyHuman!, an artist residency program that combines music, journalism, artistic data mining and social justice.
Pau and his team were touched by the refugee crisis that took place in Europe in 2013, an event that prompted the launch of Domestic Data Streamers. He would watch news updates with numbers describing the death toll and the influx of refugees to the continent. However, he realized these numbers were mere data points and lacked human empathy.
“Our approach from Domestic Data Streamers has always been focusing on… how we can transform information into a way that somehow shakes us.”
Pau’s presentation successfully seeks to bridge the gap between emotions and data, while also introducing his audience to artificial intelligence (AI) and its many everyday uses. The attendees of this thought-provoking presentation were able to understand AI from a different perspective and to ask the appropriate questions that take human emotions into consideration.
The presentation builds from the binary perspective of AI, consisting of viewpoints that label AI as either inherently bad or good. Pau argues that in the middle of this binary thought, there is a lack of imagination. It is necessary not to have a purely dystopian view, but to also not to be naïve.
He boldly states, “Actually, artificial intelligence is quite dumb.” He reaches this conclusion by explaining that AI lacks the ability to understand human knowledge and reality. It can figure out the data that it is fed, which around 60 percent of the time comes from the United States. It also contains a historical bias, since the data collected to create AI comes only from the last 20 years. Whereas AI provides statistical information (when), humans provide the logical context (why).
This distinction is something Pau wants to make clear to the Innovators Club and through his work with Domestic Data Streamers. He also wants to make it clear that AI is simply a tool, and all it takes to hack or bypass it is a bit of cleverness. However, it is necessary to be careful when inputting data into AI if we want to create durable and ethical tools.
Pau’s method of hacking takes the form of biasing AI tools, such as image generation and universal voice, towards an emotional perspective.
His work includes the translation of real life memories into AI to cause a visceral reaction in dementia patients, known as reminiscence therapy, and assistance to two of the biggest refugee organizations in Athens in recovering lost histories to pass down to future generations.
To conclude, Pau asks, “If artificial intelligence is the answer, what is the question?” He encourages us not to view AI as an end, but, instead, to discover this end for ourselves.