Studios

Antikythera Studios deploy a deeply interdisciplinary speculative design methodology that uses scenarios to surface counterintuitive concepts and develop key research themes through propositions that move technological speculation beyond simplistic utopian and dystopian agendas. This approach recognizes that technologies are never simply good nor bad, but rather mechanisms that reveal things about the world and reposition the agents, environments, protocols, materials and infrastructures that compose and organize it.

Why is a studio approach essential? Architecture — as both a discourse & discipline — has evolved a studio culture in which speculative and experimental modes of research are given a degree of autonomy from direct professional application, allowing it to explore ideas and literacies by working through projective models. Today, the software and hardware infrastructures of planetary computation need the same kind of speculative studio culture: one that focuses on foundational questions of what computational systems are and could be, examines what is necessary and what isn’t, and maps scenarios to test and chart trajectories accordingly.

The studio approach is guided by a set of key principles:

Diagnostic before Projective

Research-driven to catch up to the present

Pragmatic to the point of being Speculative

Informed by counterintuitive, uncanny functionalism

Scenario-Driven rather than Solutionist

Active Critical variables rather than linear shining paths

Radical in the literal sense of going to the root

Cognitive simulations over symbolic performances

Pharmakon Propositions

Neither utopias nor dystopias

Composite CONSTITUENCIES

Creates rather than caters to specific audiences

A New Philosophy Of Planetary Computation

2022

Benjamin H. Bratton

Introducing Antikythera, a new program to examine the implications of an unfolding radical philosophical event: the emergence of planetary-scale computation.

Antikythera Studios operate on a two-year cycle, spanning Design-Research & Design-Development phases:

In the first year, an intensive exploratory 12-to-20 week Design-Research Studio surfaces key questions and concepts around the program’s research areas, culminating in projects and concepts that lay groundwork for additional focused development.

In the second year, several 4-week Design-Development Studios focus on select scenarios and propositions to further deepen specific ideas and areas of inquiry. Outcomes take form in essays, films, prototypes, and multimedia outputs that contribute to a philosophy of technology in modes fit for the 21st century. 

During both phases, Studio Researchers and Affiliate Researchers from diverse professional backgrounds – from architecture to astrobiology, interaction design to economics, sci-fi literature to computer science, history of science to simulation design – are invited to bring expertise to collaborative design briefs, seminars, and workshops to develop projects that contribute to Antiktyera’s growing body of work across its research themes. 

Past studios

2023 studio projects

Whole Earth Codec

2023

Connor Cook, Christina Lu & Dalena Tran

How may emergent cognitive infrastructures constitute the basis of planetary intelligence? If the sensing layer focuses on ecological data over personal data, how does the diversity of multi-modal inputs and outputs constitute the basis of a computational syntax, and does the recursivity of large models constitute a model for planetary self-observation?

HAIID

2023

Daniel Barcay, William Morgan & Sarah Olimpia Scott

How has HCI shifted from clicking menus to the design of synthetic personalities, what does this portend for how we imagine AI in anthropomorphic terms, and what interpersonal neuroses are sure to become part of everyday interaction with computational systems?

Vivarium

2023

Will Freudenheim, Christina Lu & Dalena Tran

If embodiment is intrinsic to intelligence, natural or artificial, then how do simulations mediate between virtual and physical interactions? How might toy world simulations allow for not only new forms of training in both bounded domain and open world scenarios, but also new forms of collaborative interactions between different human and computational agents?

Xenoplex

2023

Connor Cook & Darren Zhu

Given the uncertain boundaries of “life” what are the necessary and sufficient conditions for its emergence, can these be artificialized, how does their artificialization enable astrobiological inquiry and what if the whole experiment system is alive?

The Ends of Science

2023

Will Freudenheim, Imran Sekalala & Darren Zhu

What is the impact on machine intelligence on science, what happens when we discover things that are scientifically true but incomprehensible, what kind of test organism is a large model and what methods of mechanistic interpretation may allow for new forms of synthetic theory?

Autocatallaxy

2023

Will Freudenheim, William Morgan & Darren Zhu

If markets are information processors, then as economies become more complex how does the complexity of the information calculated and expressed as price evolve, and how does the emergence of AI shift the visibility of information and the automation of production /distribution dynamics?

Planetary Counter-Simulation

2023

Daniel Barcay, Sara Drake, Sarah Olimpia Scott & Imran Sekalala

What happens after the Chinese balloon episode? As planetary computation becomes extraplanetary through sensors, satellites and stations beyond the Karman Line, in what ways does the geopolitics of Earth observation systems track the long-term competitive evolution of simulation and counter-simulation?

Cloud Megaregionalization

2023

Sara Drake, Noya Kohavi, Sarah Olimpia Scott & Julian Siravo

What is the impact of the stack on regional planning and development? How are the geopolitics of chip manufacturing, land and resource allocation and  the political geographies of border economics related to the broader hemisphericalization of digital infrastructures?

upcoming lecture

COGNITIVE INFRASTRUCTURES: SYNTHETIC INTELLIGENCE IN THE WILD

JUly 3, 2024

London

As AI becomes both more general and more foundational, it shouldn’t be seen as a disembodied virtual brain. It is a real, material force. AI is embedded into the active, decision making processes of real world systems. As AI becomes infrastructural, infrastructures become intelligent. 


In this lecture, Antikythera Director Benjamin Bratton will explore the ways that Cognitive Infrastructures in the wild are forming, framing, and evolving a new ecology of planetary intelligence. The lecture will also feature design briefs and concepts in process from Antikythera’s London 2024 summer studio, which assembles 15 studio researchers at Central Saint Martins to investigate unexpected futures for social and machine intelligence.

Cognitive Infrastructures

Synthetic Intelligence
Design-Development Studio
June 21st – July 19th 2024

What are Cognitive Infrastructures?

As artificial intelligence becomes infrastructural, and as societal infrastructures concurrently become more cognitive, the relation between AI theory and practice needs realignment. Across scales – from world-datafication and data visualization to users and UI, and back again – many of the most interesting problems in AI design are still embryonic.

Natural Intelligence emerges at environmental scale and in the interactions of multiple agents. It is located not only in brains but in active landscapes. Similarly, artificial intelligence is not contained within single artificial minds but extends throughout the networks of planetary computation: it is baked into industrial processes; it generates images and text; it coordinates circulation in cities; it senses, models and acts in the wild.

This represents an infrastructuralization of AI, but also a ‘making cognitive’ of both new and legacy infrastructures. These are capable of responding to us, to the world and to each other in ways we recognize as embedded and networked cognition.

AI is physicalized, from user interfaces on the surface of handheld devices to deep below the built environment. As we interact with the world, we retrain model weights, making actions newly reflexive in knowing that performing an action is also a way of representing it within a model. To play with the model is to remake the model, increasingly in real time.

How might this frame human-AI interaction design? What happens when the production and curation of data is for increasingly generalized, multimodal and foundational, models? How might the collective intelligence of generative AI make the world not only queryable, but re-composable in new ways? How will simulations collapse the distances between the virtual and the real? How will human societies align toward the insights and affordances of artificial intelligence, rather than AI bending to human constructs? Ultimately, how will the inclusion of a fuller range of planetary information, beyond traces of individual human users, expand what counts as intelligence?

Individual users will not only interact with big models, but multiple combinations of models will interact with groups of people in overlapping combinations. Perhaps the most critical and unfamiliar interactions will unfold between different AIs without human interference.

Cognitive Infrastructures are forming, framing, and evolving a new ecology of planetary intelligence.

2024 Summer Studio, London

Cognitive Infrastructures is the theme for Antikythera’s 2024 Synthetic Intelligence Studio in London.  Antikythera’s 2024 Summer Studio Cognitive Infrastructures will run from June 21st to July 19th.

Studio Researchers include Serpentine and King's College London PhD researcher ALASDAIR MILNE, artist and programmer CEZAR MOCAN, Cambridge Center of the Future of Intelligence MPhil graduate in Ethics of AI, Data and Algorithms student CHLOE LOEWITH,  École normale supérieure PhD Researcher and Lecturer DANIELE CAVALLI, writer, filmmaker and researcher GARY ZHANG, University of Ecole Des Ponts ParisTech computer vision researcher YANNIS SIGLIDIS, University of the Arts London interdisciplinary artist and technologist IULIA IONESCU, Utrecht University MSc student and TNO research intern IVAR FRISCH, Google DeepMind Research Engineer and University College London PhD student JACKIE KAY,  University of the Arts London lecturer and technical artist JENN LEUNG, Google software engineer and MIT Media Lab and CMU research affiliate MICHELLE CHANG, AI/ML researcher PHILIP MOREIRA TOMEI, Royal College of Art and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University researcher in artificial and distributed intelligence SONIA BERNACIAK, University of Oxford PhD student in theoretical ML TYLER FARGHLY, and Google DeepMind Senior AI Researcher WINNIE STREET.

Joining BENJAMIN BRATTON and Antikythera Studio Director NICOLAY BOYADJIEV will be Affiliate Researchers includeincluding Google-DeepMind VP of Technology and Society BLAISE AGUERA Y ARCAS, Google-DeepMind simulations researchers JOEL Z LEIBO and SASHA VEZHNEVETS, Santa Fe Institute astrophysicist SARA WALKER, science fiction writer STANLEY CHEN, and Cambridge University Centre for the Study of Existential Risk researcher THOMAS MOYNIHAN.

The studio will be based in Kings Cross at Central Saint Martins. Students from CSM’s MA Narrative Environments program will support the studio researchers and production.

Design & Philosophy for Speculative Synthetic Intelligence

Rather than applying philosophy to ideas about technology, Antikythera derives and develops philosophy from direct encounters with technology. Rather than approach Artificial Intelligence as the imitation of the human, Synthetic Intelligence starts with the emerging potential of machine intelligences.

Antikythera approaches the issues of Synthetic Intelligence though several core principles:

Computation is not just calculation, but the basis of a new global infrastructure of planetary computation remaking politics, economics, culture and science in its image.

The ongoing emergence of AI represents a fundamental evolution of that global infrastructure, from stacks based on procedural programming architectures, to ones based on training, serving and interacting with large models: from The Stack to AI Stack.

Machine intelligence is less a discrete artificial brain than the pervasive animation of distributed information sensing and processing infrastructures.

”Antikythera” refers to computation as both an instrumental technology–a technology that allows us to do new things, as well as an existential technology–a technology that discloses and reveals underlying conditions.

As existing technologies have outpaced legacy theory, philosophy is not something to be applied to or projected upon technology, but something to be generated from direct, exploratory encounters with technology.

Studio Briefs

Antikythera’s Cognitive Infrastructures studio will unfold from several interrelated speculative briefs for intellectual and practical exploration:

CIVILIZATIONAL OVERHANG AND PRODUCTIVE DISALIGNMENT

AI overhang affects not only narrow domains, but also arguably, civilizations, and how they understand and register their own organization–past, present, and future. As a macroscopic goal, simple “alignment” of AI to existing human values is inadequate and even dangerous. The history of technology suggests that the positive impacts of AI will not arise through its subordination to or mimicry of human desires. Productive disalignment–bending society toward fundamental insights of AI– is just as essential.

HAIID: HUMAN-AI INTERACTION DESIGN

HAIID is an emerging field, one that contemplates the evolution of Human-Computer Interaction in a world where AI can process complex psychosocial phenomena. Anthropomorphization of AI often leads to weird "folk ontologies" of what AI is and what it wants. Drawing on perspectives from a global span of cultures, mapping the odd and outlier cases of HAIID gives designers a wider view of possible interaction models.

TOY WORLD POLICIES

Toy Worlds allow AIs to navigate and manipulate low-dimensional virtual spaces as analogues for higher dimensional real world spaces, each space standing in for the other in sequence. In doing so, AIs learning means the adjustment of policies that focus and adapt their learned expertises. The sim-to-real gap can be rethought in two ways: recovering loss between low and high dimensions, and the agnostic transfer of policy from one domain to another.

EMBEDDINGS VISUALIZATION

The predictive intelligence of LLMs is based on the adjacencies of word embeddings in mind-altering, complex vector spaces. Different ways of visualizing embeddings are different ways of comprehending machine intelligence. Descriptive and generative models for this can be drawn from neural network and brain visualization, complex systems modeling, agent interaction mapping, semantic trees, and more.

GENERATIVE AI AND MASSIVELY-DISTRIBUTED PROMPTING

For generative AI, the distances between training data and prompt engineering can seem, at different times, to be vast or tiny. To train or to prompt are both forms of interaction with large models. As the collective intelligence of culture is transformed into weights, weights are activated by prompts shared across domains to produce new artifacts. Though interface culture tends to individuate interactions with models, there are many ways to design massively-distributed prompting, producing collective artifacts that mirror the societal-scale intelligence of training data.

MULTIMODAL LLM INTERFACES

The design space of interaction with multimodal LLMs is not limited to individual or group chat interfaces, but can include a diverse range of media inputs that can be combined to produce a diverse range of hybrid outputs. Redefining “language” as that which can be tokenized breaks down not only genre and media but multiplies and integrates forms of sensing (sight, sound, speech, text, movement, etc.) New interfaces may allow users both comprehension and composition of those hybrids.

DATA PROVENANCE AND PROVIDENCE: THE GOOD, THE POISONED, AND THE COLLAPSED

The future utility of LLMs as cognitive infrastructures may be undermined by model collapse caused by retraining on outputs, and model degradation caused by training on poisoned data. Like the Ouroborous, the model eats its own tail. Meanwhile, differentiation between human-generated and model-generated data and artifacts will become more difficult and complex. High quality domain-specific data is largely private and/or privatized and so not generally available for socially-useful models. Will synthetic data and techniques like federated learning become more essential in ensuring data quality, and if so what are the necessary systems?

THE PLANETARY ACROSS HUMAN AND INHUMAN LANGUAGES

The planetary computation we have today is not planetary enough. The tokenization of collective intelligence is limited by how the most important LLMs are trained largely on English, and on English produced by a relatively small slice of humans, which themselves are a small slice of information producing and consuming forms of life. Given the role of planetary AI for ecological sensing, monitoring and governance –not to mention fundamental science– the prospect of “organizing all the world’s information” takes on renewed urgency and complexity.

upcoming lecture

COGNITIVE INFRASTRUCTURES: SYNTHETIC INTELLIGENCE IN THE WILD

JUly 3, 2024

London

As AI becomes both more general and more foundational, it shouldn’t be seen as a disembodied virtual brain. It is a real, material force. AI is embedded into the active, decision making processes of real world systems. As AI becomes infrastructural, infrastructures become intelligent. 


In this lecture, Antikythera Director Benjamin Bratton will explore the ways that Cognitive Infrastructures in the wild are forming, framing, and evolving a new ecology of planetary intelligence. The lecture will also feature design briefs and concepts in process from Antikythera’s London 2024 summer studio, which assembles 15 studio researchers at Central Saint Martins to investigate unexpected futures for social and machine intelligence.

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