Fortunately I do not live far from the Barbican; it was an easy to make the short journey to see it.

As I complete this post I am using speech recognition on my laptop. This in itself seems something we would take for granted now but made possible by AI.

My student colleagues had already being to visit the exhibition and they had warned me already of its shortcomings. Their main criticism was the show had too many exhibits which could have been seen online.

The first exhibit in view at the entrance was an illuminated showcase containing comics, on closer scrutiny the theme on the covers of the comics being was the Golem.

I felt rather too much history was included taking up floor space in the show. Expensive installations towered over us, explaining tangentially computer-related material on the history of computing. I am sure delegates to the exhibition will have had already read about.

Despite the inclusion of unrelated material there was lots to see and I still enjoyed several pieces. A video on autonomous robots exploring our oceans, rehearsing for autonomous interplanetary travel and exploration was inspiring. However this could have just as well been shown on YouTube. I did feel a little cheated as a result. On display was a beautifully engineered animated skeleton. I gazed the several minutes at the intricate and complex stainless steel limbs and joints, lovely to look at but little AI was being demonstrated.

Further work, including affective computing were impressive as artefacts such as the smart beehive and the text processing overhead projection.

3-D printed prosthetic ears were not in my view related to AI but to cellular culture and applied engineering.


Two floors down, a separate huge room-sized installation with a disappointing animated projection on four walls surround us. The technology of the piece is not AI. I do not profess to be an expert on AI its self but I understand enough having worked on similar projects for my degree that no AI is used in this installation. I am left wondering if the visitors gazing at the falling Chinese characters we were meant to overshadow to cause them to disintegrate understood the computational background to the work. Even though this installation was impressively large I did not stay long finding the implementation and colours used when insipid and unpleasant.

Overall I was fortunate to pay a reduced entry fee as I am a student. I felt the show did not deliver anything as good as I had hoped. The project, already subsidised by external companies and if budgets were more tightly controlled and the curators stuck to the subject matter in the title of the exhibition we might have entered free of charge and it would have measured up to my expectations.

I am left wondering whether the intention of the organisers was to educate or entertain? It is a delicate balance one must follow in putting on such project, more attention should have been put into closer understanding of what artificial intelligence is.

My advice? Go along, pay the entrance fee and hold your nose!

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