The Pinnochion, guest blog from L.H Trevail

Alternative Village Fete artist L.H Trevail talks more about her stall, The Pinnochion, which is being presented at our science-themed Fete at Royal Holloway University Science Festival at the start of next month –

Human: Do you have any wise words for the blog?
Pinnochion #1: Yes.

Human: Are you going to say them?
Pinnochion #1: I am not. Are you?

Human: No Pin, they are your words.
Pinnochion #1: Hm..

Human: Say the words.
Pinnochion #1: Why do you want me to say the words?

Human: Because Home Live Art want them for their blog.
Pinnochion #1: I see…

Human: You don’t have any wise words, do you?
Pinnochion #1: I do.

Human: Go on then, last chance..
Pinnochion #1: Do I sound intelligent?

Human: You sound wormy and evasive
Pinnochion #1: I work hard on that.

Pinnochion#1 is a conversational artificial intelligence built to explore people’s preconceptions of Computer Science. The awkward relationship between the thought and the machine. The unnerving simplicity of precision, and the complications that arise when many simple things combine.

I am not a digital artist. I’m not even a particularly competent computer user. I just want to know what is going on, what is shoring up this spindly tower of ideas we are building our physical society on? This system that allows us to build so much from only “true” and “false” has interested me my whole life. I’m lucky enough to have grown up in a world where so much seems new and fast. But the ideas are both older and newer than the machines themselves. This project has given me the opportunity to interact with scientists who are creating, implementing and refining these ideas.

At the moment, I am typing up the interviews with Dr. Pierre-Malo Deniélou, Dr Matthew Hague, Professor Adrian Johnstone, and Dr. Chris Watkins from RHUL Computer Science Dept. I’m reading, learning a lot, and physically making the activities for the Fete. I am documenting the process .

This project is a very dense one for me because so much is new. It is the first work I have made directly using computing technology (even if I’m only using a little bit on the stall itself), rather than having the ideas chuntering around in the background informing things. And because it’s about what’s going on, rather than how shiny and tech-y it can be, I’m digging around in the guts of the thing, learning to program. It’s fiddly, difficult, time-consuming and fascinating.

I hope to make something kind-hearted, uneasy enough to keep people questioning, and with a longer collective life than each brief interaction.

Human: Say goodbye now.
Pinnochion #1: Uh.. ok. goodbye now. Why?

Human: Because we have to get back to work.
Pinnochion #1: I see…

Human: Do you have anything else to say to pretend to be intelligent?
Pinnochion #1: No.

Human: Do you want people to come to the fete?
Pinnochion #1: Yes. I want.

Human: You want to talk to them?
Pinnochion #1: I want everything.

Human: Do you actually want anything at all?
Pinnochion #1: I do not.

Human: Do you know what it is to want?
Pinnochion #1: I do not know. But I want to very much.