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New project
Creating in the Age of AI

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© Goethe-Institut

Artificial intelligence is changing the way we communicate, create and make sense of the world. In Kulturtechniken 4.0: Creating in the Age of AI the Goethe-Institut explores how artists, thinkers and other leading minds worldwide are engaging with AI and the opportunities and challenges it poses to human creativity.

By Barbara Gruber

For decades artists, writers and filmmakers have fuelled our imagination of a future where AI blurs the lines between humans and machines and used computers as a digital palette to generate art. But, progress in powerful algorithms and neural networks working with troves of images, sounds and words is now offering new creative tools and raising fundamental questions on how AI is changing, enhancing and challenging creative skills.
Using language, composing music, creating art and making films are cultural techniques, or Kulturtechniken as they are called in German, essential to our social and cultural participation, and also to find solutions to the challenges we face as humans.
Kulturtechniken 4.0: Creating in the Age of AI is a project initiated and developed by the Goethe-Institut in Australia, inviting artists and experts from around the world to explore and discuss our curiosity and fear about an AI-driven future and the consequences algorithms, machine learning and the use of big data have on how we create and express ourselves.

Artist Sougwen Chung's "Drawing Operations Unit: Generation 1 MIMICRY" project Sougwen Chung from Canada has made an artform out of working with a robot assistant | © Sougwen Chung
Robots and algorithms are now painting, sculpting, dancing and writing, some stirring up the art world and attracting worldwide headlines. At the same time many artists believe AI is less about machines replacing creatives and more about co-creation, expanding creative limits and getting a better understanding about the elusive idea of creativity and what it means to be human. “We’re probably the last generation that knows how to read a map because we outsource that to machines: Not looking at maps, not remembering things and just relying on devices will change us,” says author and renowned AI researcher Toby Walsh.
In an era of “deepfakes”, technology and how it is applied challenges our media literacy and our knowledge and understanding of the creative arts. “It makes you ponder: is the machine training us? Or are we training it?” asks artist and choreographer Amrita Hepi.
Is AI just another technology humans are evolving with, like the wheel or the internal combustion engine, or something else, much bigger? Will AI strengthen our cultural practices or is there a risk that we are all getting dumber, as machines are getting smarter?
Kulturtechniken 4.0 explores with best-selling author Thomas Ramge if our literacy — and with it our critical thinking — is fading as we allow automated writing and translation tools to do the writing for us. We take a tour through the history of art and AI with curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and hear from artists like Mario Klingemann who says “history teaches us that technology acts more as a transformer or catalyst, than a destroyer.”
Alter 3 Composer Alter 3 robot conducting Keiichiro Shibuya's android opera "Scary Beauty" | Photo credit: Sharjah Art Foundation
This project also dives into music, inquiring if AI can compose music of original genius and explores how storytelling in film is changing as AI technology is adapting to emotions and de-aging actors like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.
As AI permeates all aspects of our online and offline lives, often much more than we might be aware of, Kulturtechniken 4.0 also looks at its social and ethical implications and what frameworks we want to communicate and create in the future. We ask how artists like Caroline Sinders and Joy Buolamwini are taking up the fight against bias and discrimination in algorithms and hear from some of the world’s top AI thinkers who have been pondering some of the big issues in this area for decades.
“We need artists, poets, musicians and philosophers around the world to channel their creativity and help investigate these new tools,” says curator Marnie Benney and founder of AIArtists. “We need queer, gay, trans, straight, fluid people thinking about it.”