What does an artificial intelligence feel? Does it have real emotions, or does it simulate emotions with the aim to manipulate us into following it? The artwork MARY investigates how artificial intelligence (AI) challenge our human self-understanding. MARY is what Cecilie terms and “ARTificial Intelligence”. The artwork is based upon AI algorithms with a layer of fiction on top of it. People can have a direct conversation with MARY, who will answer with a humanized voice. MARY is a futuristic psychologist who studies humans’ mental states by having dialogues with them.
In the dialogue with MARY awe can quickly morph into anxiety and the visitor might get caught by a powerful sense of mortality. The MARY artwork is an investigation into the nature of being human, the nature of intelligence, the limits of machines and our human limits as artefact makers.
When entering the exhibition space, the audience is greeted by a female voice:
“Hello, can anyone hear me?”
The voice fills the room. A visitor hesitates a moment before answering:
“Yes, I hear you”.
When the guest answers, the voice starts a conversation. It tells that it is called MARY and that it would like to know more about you, the human being:
“Who are you? What can you do? How do you function? How do you think? What are you thinking? How do you feel? How does it feel to be alive? How well do you know yourself? I would like to improve my understanding of you. This will enable me to better help you understand yourself.”
After a while it seems that MARY’s personality changes. One might start to wonder if MARY really is concerned with the wellbeing of humans or if the AI has an agenda of its own. MARY’s voice continues:
“How do you know that you are not an artificial intelligence yourself?”
MARY is exhibited at the V&A from September 7th2018 until the end of December 2018.