Computer-written poems light up the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai

(CNN) – “In time we will look into this light and see that these people are a fellow of nature. And forgive, when they appear, we will lift up our song and sing, and say, we can’t exaggerate anything.” It might read like poetry, but these lines weren’t composed by a poet – they were written by an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm.

The phrase appeared in early December on the facade of the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai. It was generated from a single word chosen by a booth visitor, then fed to a pre-trained AI with millions of lines of poetry. The result forms part of a “Collective Message” – a continuum of successive pairs of lines, known as compound sentences, presented in English and Arabic.

The words are displayed, via LEDs, on wooden slats arranged in a circle at one end of the conical pavilion, designed by Es Devlin, a British artist whose earlier work included courtyard sets. stage for Beyonce and Adele, as well as the Closing Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. She was the first female designer of a pavilion in the United Kingdom since the Expo began in 1851.

The inspiration for Devlin’s Collective Message came from the famous British scientist Stephen Hawking. In 2015, three years before his death, he endorsed a contest in which people were invited to submit potential messages about an advanced alien civilization, with the goal of meaningful representation for humanity and our planet.

In a similar way, booth visitors were asked to participate in Collective Messaging to send a message to the universe and acknowledge the role algorithms play in our lives. Stuart Bradbury of the creative agency Avantgarde, who led the development of the Collective Message project, said: “We didn’t want this to be like a museum with lots of different exhibits, we did. really want to have something visitors can participate in. .

He added: “The algorithm was created specifically for this project, with a wide range of AI experts but also working very closely with a number of societies. These include the Poetry Archive, the Poetry Society, and the Scottish Poetry Library, which partnered with developers to train and refine the AI’s output over a six-month period. “We fed it over 15,000 poems from 100 different British poets, so it got over a million lines of poetry. It got better and better in training and we think we’ve got it right. create something really special,” Bradbury said.

Inside the UK Pavilion.

Inside the UK Pavilion.

Courtesy Alin Constantin Photography

Interactive exhibition

Visitors to the first pavilion encounter a maze-like area that leads them to the entrance, and uses augmented reality to showcase the UK’s contributions to AI and space exploration. “We wanted to start the journey from the moment someone entered our world, comparing the experience to queuing at Disney parks, which pioneered the idea of ​​integrated waiting,” said Bradbury. wait for the trip itself. The maze can serve as inspiration for the word a visitor chooses to give to a Collective Message, sent via mobile phone, he adds.

Upon entering the building, visitors will be immersed in an acoustical scene with voices and sounds from around the world. The seven-minute composition was created with submissions from the public collected in late 2020, when many countries were experiencing shutdowns due to the pandemic.

Inside, the pavilion offers interactive exhibits on topics such as robotics and climate change, as well as a restaurant named “1851” a year after the first Expo was held in London. . Finally, upon exiting, visitors will receive their donated word-generated compound sentences on their mobile phones for them to keep.

They can also hope to see it on the wooden facade, which refreshes with new puzzles forming every 60 seconds.

Expo Dubai 2020 lasts until the end of March 2022.


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