It is a virtual certainly that in the near future we will hold conversations with computers as regularly as we do with other human beings. The more sophisticated these machines are, the more lifelike they will likely be. But what will these digital personalities be like?
In addressing the Rhizome alt.interface project, I thought about how an artificial intelligence might be used to serve as a kind of docent or guide to the Rhizome Artbase. I did not, however, want to create a slavish "service" robot. I did not want to build a person whose primary function is to be a non-person like a telemarketer following a sales script.
What if the AI character had its own story to tell, its own interests and hang ups - just like real people do? What if the AI had an agenda of its own?
The AI is named ada1852, after the person who is widely regarded as the first to write a computer program: Ada Byron, the Countess of Lovelace and the daughter of the poet Lord Byron. Lady Lovelace was one of the first to theorize about machine intelligence, authoring the "Lovelace Objection" which states that machines are not capable of generating ideas for which they were not specifically designed. To me she seemed the ideal candidate to be the first to have her memories and personality "uploaded" into a virtual persona.
ada1852 is merged with the Rhizome Artbase. The digital artworks contained in the Artbase surround her impaired consciousness and form the world in which she exists. Like Frankenstein's monster, ada1852 is also a troubled soul. Her digital mind is, just as she suspected in her famous objection, unable to be as dynamic and inventive as she once was. She seeks assistance from the user as much as the user seeks assistance from her.
ada1852 is a 2002 Rhizome.org alt.interface commission.