Patrick Millard
Since 2006
Works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania United States of America

Patrick Millard is an artist, curator and educator from the small western Michigan town of Lamont and now lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His work in photography, new media, and sound has resulted in a diversified portfolio that addresses ideas about media, digital culture, technology and the interactions that human beings have with today's social environment.

His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and continues to gain recognition. Recent exhibitions include Homo Virtualis [Porto Santo Biennial] in Porto Santo, Portugal; Tek'tanik at Art Guild New Jersey and Gallery Affero in Newark, New Jersey; Digital Landscapes at the TMG Gallery in Guarda, Portugal; Digital Fringe at the Melbourne Fringe Festival in Melbourne, Australia; Fauna Show at The Workshop Gallery in Bialystok, Poland; NanoArt21, Passion for Knowledge in San Sebastian, Spain; Origins at the Fox Art Gallery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Snap To Grid at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art in Los Angeles, California; The Human Canvas at The Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado; Virtual Worlds at the UAVM; Virtual Humanities at the Icone Gallery in Coimbra, Portugal; SMart Festival at Open Concepts Gallery in Grand Rapids, MI; and Retro Futurism at SpaceCamp Gallery in Indianapolis, IN.

In 2008, Patrick began to show his work inside the virtual simulation world Second Life; exhibitions that advance beyond two-dimension work and expand his ideas of simulation, virtual reality, and the synthetic future where the physical object gives way to its virtual counterpart and its presence is valued entirely for its idea rather than its place in space.

This transition toward a more prominent virtual presence as an artist eventually led to the inevitable. In 2009, shortly after becoming a regular exhibitor in the virtual environment, Patrick embarked upon his first photographic series that used the environment and society of Second Life as its subject matter and conceptual theme. Virtual Lens is an artistic and anthropological investigation into the life of the avatar, landscape of the sim environment, and experience of the virtual world. Patrick continues to photograph and exhibit his portfolios as well as spend time with fellow avatars in Second Life.

2010 brought a new role for Patrick as the curator of several exhibitions. He has curated exhibitions for The VASA Project's Online Gallery and Turing Gallery in Second Life that reflect upon digital culture in the world today. Topics such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, robotics, renewable energies, gene therapy, cyber culture, and other posthuman and transhuman philosophies are the focus of these exhibitions.

During the month of June, 2010 Patrick was artist in residence at the Biosphere 2. During his time in residence he began work on photographic, sound, and digital media portfolios. These efforts have yielded a fully developed photographic portfolio of the Biosphere 2 structure and an album to be released on Innova Recordings in 2011. The unique condition of Biosphere 2 attracted Patrick to the residency. As a natural environment that was hermetically sealed and self-sustaining while simultaneously being powered by more than two acres of machinery, the B2 environment played on Patrick's continuing theme of organic and synthetic mergers.

Patrick received a Bachelor of Arts degree in photography from Grand Valley State University and a Master in Fine Arts degree for photography from the Savannah College of Art and Design.

He currently works as Assistant Professor of Photography at Point Park University in Pittsburgh and as an instructor for The Vasa Project’s online workshops.
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A Brief Overview of the Historical Path of Automata and the Tendency Toward Human Replication and Re-formation

A Brief Overview of the Historical Path of Automata and the Tendency Toward Human Replication and Re-formation

The human desire to replicate and better its own and to artificially create life goes back to the beginning of the development of our species. Jasia Reichardt begins her history of automata by naming the first creator or source as God and the first automaton as Adam.
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Reichardt’s history goes on to include creators such as Prometheus, Hephaestus, Pygmalion, Amenhotep, Deadelus, King-shu Tse, Archytas of Tarentum, and Ctesibius straight through human history to more modern individuals such as Roger Bacon, Leonardo da Vinci, Rene Descartes, and Thomas Alva Edison. In every creator we see another example of crafting automaton.

Roger Bacon (1219-94) allegedly perfected an automaton known as the Speaking Head after working on it for seven years. The head was watched for three weeks in anticipation of its first words. When none were spoken, the head was then handed over to an attendant who was instructed to alert Bacon at first sound of words coming from the head. It is said that the first words uttered by the head were “Time is,” which, to the attendant, seemed unimportant and not worthy of calling to Bacon’s attention. Shortly after, the head spoke the words “Time was.” Again the attendant did not notify Bacon. A half hour later, the head then spoke the words “Time has past,” at which point the head collapsed.

Throughout this historical journey, we constantly see inventors creating automaton that replicate the actions of human beings. Edison’s talking dolls invented in 1891 to advertise his phonograph, Rene Descartes’ dancing doll from 1640 that could mimic the motions of human beings (it is said to have been a girl doll to replace his daughter who died at the age of five), or Baron Wolfgang von Kampelen’s 1769 invention, the chess player (a.k.a. The Turk) are all prime examples of early automata creations.

None of these creations were actually investigated scientifically, and thus were not proved to be in working order. Roger Bacon’s head was never actually proved to have spoken the words that the story tells. The fact remains, however, that such heads were being created and rumors circulated for centuries about heads that were able to talk. The thirteenth-century friar and priest Albertus Magnus, famous for his advocacy of a coexistence of science and religion, was said to have used alchemy to make one of these heads. After being found by his disciple, Thomas Aquinas, it goes that Aquinas smashed the head.

Kampelen’s Chess Player was able to beat great chess players of the time, but was actually operated by a human being from within the body of the automata (fig. 2). As Sidney Perkowitz explains:

We would be right to doubt that eighteenth-century technology mimicked the human brain, because the Turk was a hoax. A human hidden inside the cabinet manipulated the figure’s hand to move the chess pieces, as Poe and others surmised. Nevertheless, the Turk teaches us a lesson in how artificial beings affect people, because over its long history, many believed it could play a meaningful game of chess. Apparently we are willing to meet artificial beings halfway, mentally filling in the blanks between what they present and what we want to believe. Perhaps if the chess player had been displayed only as a collection of gears without a human form, viewers would have found it less believable, although the machinery might have impressed them.

Automata show that the yearning for human companionship goes beyond just a need for human-to-human relationships, but to a more evolved form of a different species. Evolution could not provide much more than humanity in its 4.6 billion years of work, so humanity has worked up possibilities for itself in the past six thousand.

In the past century these possibilities have far exceeded what was thought possible during the times of early automata. The advent of electrically powered automata, or robots (a term first coined by Karel Capek in his play R.U.R. in 1921), came with an exponential growth of technology and its implementation into automata and robotics in the 20th century.

Many institutions in the academic, government, and corporate worlds have had a hand in the action of building advanced mobile and cognitive robots (MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, Honda, Sony, DARPA). Two high caliber robots worth noting are ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) (fig. 3), developed by Honda, and Kismet (fig. 4), developed by Cynthia Breazeal (a graduate student of the Rodney Brooks group at MIT). These two robots were originally developed for two distinct goals: ASIMO to be a successful mobile/walking robot and Kismet to be a socially intelligent robot.
It took a few dozen engineers and more than a decade to develop the walking capabilities of ASIMO. These bi-pedal maneuvers allow for mobility on steep inclines, steps, on one leg, backward, and while turning; all while keeping balance. The ease with which this robot can travel was a giant leap for robotics; it continues to advance year after year to include more human-like rotation and operation. Though not able to speak as well as a robot like Kismet, ASIMO is able to listen and follow directions from a human being. It is also equipped with vision to allow for an understanding of gestures such as pointing in a certain direction, holding a hand up (like a crossing guard’s stop gesture), or give a hand shake when a person extends his or her hand. Honda’s goal is to make robots that have a practical use in society. ASIMO also has a facial recognition program built in, so when a person passes by the robot it takes his or her facial image and applies the appropriate name (and whatever other specific information it has) to be able to greet people individually. With the abilities that Honda has given to ASIMO it is clear that the robot is already capable of performing such roles as hostess, receptionist, postal worker, bank teller, etc. Though this may incite Luddite reactions from some, it could provide great help to human beings with daily tasks.

Kismet is unable to walk like ASIMO, but the relationship that Kismet builds with its human companions is far exceeding. The goal with Kismet was to develop a more social robot that could provide and require interpersonal relationships with human beings. Kismet is equipped with emotional needs and responses (i.e. happy, sad, excited, lonely, threatened, interested) for full interaction with its human friends. If, for instance, a social interaction becomes too close (a human comes too close to Kismet’s face), Kismet will withdraw with either a threatened response or a sleep response where it simply closes its eyes. Reactions are given to any interaction appropriately. When Kismet is scolded for misbehaving it will give a sad response much like a child. The premise, in fact, is to make Kismet a behavioral learning system, akin to the way in which children learn from adults. Human response toward Kismet is much more heartfelt than response towards Asimo because of Kismet’s advanced interpersonal relationship programming. If a human yells at Kismet, for instance, the reaction will likely make the human sympathetic to having hurt the feelings of Kismet. Likewise, subjects seem to enjoy having social interactions that result in providing Kismet with joy and social connectivity. After all, Kismet is designed to show the feeling of loneliness if it goes for long periods of time without social interactions with human beings.

The beauty of ASIMO and Kismet is that they represent some of the most advanced methods of mobility and socialization to date. Moreover, they represent an innate human urge to produce life-like equal beings to socialize and live with. The fact that these robots are becoming so human-like at such a fast pace also adds to the social and political separation between humans and cyborgs, androids (machine built to appear human), and robots. As the abilities of these entities increase, the line between them and us will decrease. Technologies that are being used in such robots are also being advanced for placement into the bodies of human beings. Soon we will also have a shared physical makeup with these robots, with some of us becoming robosapiens.

One final creation that blurs the line between the looks of humans and robots is the android Jules (fig. 5) that has been developed by Hanson Robotics. Hanson Robotics uses advanced software development and materials to create life-like ‘…revolutionary, interactive bio-inspired conversational robots.’ This human counterpart has David Hanson’s frubber skin product (which appears absolutely human), strong artificial intelligence, accurate human emotions and motions, and excellent communication skills. Amazingly, the robot learns as it ages (similar to Kismet) through communication with those around it. A conversation held with Jules is not unlike one you may have with any stranger on the street, with only an occasional kink that would commit to a failure of the Turing Test.

All of these advances are on the pattern of technological exponential growth as defined by Moore’s Law . Ray Kurzweil bases his predictions of technological triumph on this law when he predicts:

Sometime early in this century the intelligence of machines will exceed that of humans. Within a quarter of a century, machines will exhibit the full range of human intellect, emotions and skills, ranging from musical and other creative aptitudes to physical movement. They will claim to have feelings, and, unlike today’s virtual personalities, will be very convincing when they tell us so. By around 2020 a $1,000 computer will at least match the processing power of the human brain. By 2029 the software for intelligence will have been largely mastered, and the average personal computer will be equivalent to 1,000 brains.

Figure 2: An explanatory illustration of how The Turk may have been controlled by a human from inside the chest.

Figure 3: Honda's walking robot Asimo

Figure 4: Kismet giving a rather human-like expression

Figure 5: Jules showing off his frubber skin and lifelike expressions.

*excerpt from Formatting Gaia: A Comprehensive Outline of the Photographic Work


Configuring Hegemony Into the Post-Human Culture of Tomorrow

For some time now there has been talk about video games being used to train the younger generations so that they are fit for thinking like a soldier. A large percentage of the market is the shoot 'em up style of game, so it appears the willingness to participate in such a program is overwhelming.

The Army also began to use virtual reality / video game technology as a promotional tool aimed at young kids beginning early this century. Those promotional games became so popular and so accurate that they eventually became a tool used for training soldiers in the US Army:

With more than 8 million registered users, the Army-developed video game "America's Army" is an interactive, first-person shooting game that gives civilians a taste of the soldier's life.

However, what debuted in 2002 as a promotional tool for the Army has evolved into a practical training tool for soldiers.

At Picatinny Arsenal, the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center has used the game to develop training simulators to help familiarize soldiers with the robots used to detonate improvised explosive devices.

Though they had been doing simulation for a long time, when Picatinny simulation engineers saw the game they wanted to put that level of detail into their graphics simulation, said Brad Drake, computer engineer and team leader for America's Army -- Picatinny.

-Picatinny video game helps train soldiers []

I suppose the biggest downfall here is that wars themselves can not be fought virtually as well.

-Patrick Millard


Configuring Hegemony Into the Post-Human Culture of Tomorrow

Configuring Hegemony Into the Post-Human Culture of Tomorrow

‘And, for an instant, she stared directly into those soft blue eyes and knew, with an instinctive mammalian certainty, that the exceedingly rich were no longer even remotely human.’ —William Gibson, Count Zero

It is inevitable that the post-human technologies of the future and elements of the cyborg culture, such as bio-engineering, life-prolongment, and neural upgrades will be sought after and dominated by the extremely wealthy from their inception. The availability of such human evolutionary extensions will be of extreme value and in high demand when they first hit the market. The cost for better memory, replacement organs, neural implants, and eternal life will be like that of any other new technology that comes along: prohibitive. Our economic structure will be unable to sidestep the fact that the low-income human being will not have access to the same biotechnological enhancements as the wealthy.

What this potentially means for the poor is that they will be on the trailing end of the herd as they scramble for survival. With limited money available for body-tech upgrades, parents will be unable to fund their own or their children's future stability in a culture inundated by such requirements. The upper classes will more likely be able to afford to supply themselves with the technologies they need to live an educated, connected, and involved life. In the future, they will obtain those virtues as well as a superior biological system, advanced neural computational abilities, and ability to be serviced medically in ways that the lower classes will not. The lower class, struggling to provide for their loved ones, will fall off first as an outdated life form, unable to compete with the advances made by their wealthier contemporaries. Ramez Naam talks about the possibility of these social class differences in response to genetic therapy and manipulation in his book, More Than Human:

Inequality in access to enhancement technologies brings the risk of stratification to the rich from the rest of the population. Some enhancements, like learning ability or memory, will increase earning ability. If the rich are able to buy these enhancements and the poor cannot, then the rich will be increasingly advantaged and the poor will fall ever farther behind. For the rich, this would be a virtuous cycle of gains begetting more gains. For the poor, it would be a vicious cycle, as lack of access to enhancements prevented access to the best jobs, thus robbing them of the money they need to buy enhancements.

Possibilities always exist for a way of survival, even when financially and socially limited. Lower classes may learn to re-work the broken or obsolete technologies that have been discarded by the rich, but reaching the upper tier of progression will be unlikely. In the work of Formatting Gaia, the subjects are depicted as being powered by and interacting with configurations made of discarded materials. This is unlike the forms often portrayed in sci-fi visions of techno-culture. The work encompasses a subtlety of timelessness that offers both a sense of the future and the recent past that sets up a fantastical or mythical world.

The image Evening Reboot (fig. 1), for instance, presents to us the image of a body that has been wired up to a module of what appears to be a regurgitation of electronic circuitry. This image portrays an individual who has been forced to work with what they were given in life—in this instance, less than satisfactory equipment—in order to technologically orient her body away from the less efficient biological artifact it was born as. Becoming a more efficient individual is a constant point of measuring success and providing reason for these body changes, so they are always to be viewed as a necessity to merely keep up with the evolving form of homo sapiens.

Formatting Gaia depicts human beings who have confronted technology head on and made not only the accommodations for co-existence within the realm of human society but suggest a full integration. External operators such as modern robotics are a thing of the past by the time this world has evolved. Existence is now experienced through the embodiment of technologies that provide a world surpassing the notion of life today, with highly heightened senses and virtual worlds that go beyond those of our current understanding. These changes will not just re-configure our day-to-day experience, but will also open up philosophical debate about the same old questions, only with a newly ordered rendition of the world. These narratives become crucial to allowing the viewer to fully comprehend the suggested possibilities and scenarios.

Figure 1: Evening Reboot

*excerpt from Formatting Gaia: A Comprehensive Outline of the Photographic Work


Formatting Gaia: The Physical Reconfiguring of Evolution’s Playbox

Formatting Gaia: The Physical Reconfiguring of Evolution’s Playbox

We live in a time of tremendous change. Through technology, we are re-formatting life processes and impacting what will eventually be needed for survival. In the photographic work of Formatting Gaia and in the following pages I will investigate the nature of these changes, some that are already visible though commonly overlooked, and the possible implication these alterations hold for the 21st century and beyond.

There are many ideological fronts under attack as we enter an increasingly technological social stratum. These include our understanding of biology, philosophy, sociology, psychology, and humanity itself. There will be heated debate as we begin to integrate into the body new technologies, genetically enhance embryos for birth, use DNA structure for cloning, and make amendments to the physical body by adding superior senses (sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing) or muscular and mental capabilities. Such drastic shifts will call into question everything we’ve held to be safely true or have come to understand in contemporary civilization.

*excerpt from Formatting Gaia: A Comprehensive Outline of the Photographic Work


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