The Transformations of the Human program invites and hosts a highly curated cohort of Fellows on an annual basis. The Residential Fellows are typically mid-career to senior academics, authors and journalists who work at Berggruen Institute headquarters in Los Angeles, at our China Center in Beijing, or at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and are directly integrated in our working groups. The Research Fellowships run for three years, contingent on annual reviews, and comprise philosophers, artists, and social scientists who are placed into AI and biotech laboratories. Their task is to discover philosophical questions (instances of the transformation of the human) reverberating in the concrete everyday labor of the engineers and researchers.
The Berggruen Institute aims to collaboratively build a program for artists at the Institute through its Transformations of the Human program by participating in its working groups; pairing them with engineers and researchers in the AI and biology labs associated with these working groups; and commissioning them to produce artworks (arts as a form of research) that explore the contemporary transformation of the human for exhibitions, catalogues, installations or performative events.
The aim of the Future Humans project is to capture the openness of the future by depicting how individual humans (both famous and unknown) express their worries and hopes, their beliefs and doubts, their melancholia and their excitement about the future. Specifically, the goal of the project is to capture a multitude of visions that express the radicalness of the now centered around three questions. The project will begin with the Future Humans Video Archive directed by art historian and museum director Marina Pugliese and may be further developed into a feature-length movie or traveling exhibition.
Advances in artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and data collection and its curation have ushered us into a new technical era, one equally exciting and anxiety provoking. There is near universal agreement that the effects of AI, of intelligent infrastructures and devices, on human life and living together is going to be enormous. How do we best address the effects of AI on things human? And how do we make sure that the insights that arise from inquiring into how AI is changing what it means to be human are built into AI? As these questions make clear, the stakes of AI vastly exceed the predominant understanding of AI as a mere engineering discipline. Perhaps even first and foremost, AI is also a philosophical project: a project that experimentally challenges many of the distinctions on which our self-comprehension as human has relied on for the longest time –– the distinction between the human and the machine, the living and the non-living, the natural and the artificial, and more. We have assembled a high-profile advisory group, working group, fellows and artists to address the philosophical and political questions that emanate from AI. Our goal is to make the human questions at stake in AI part of AI design itself. And our ambition is to thereby facilitate the emergence of an entirely new genre of productions –– artistic as well as philosophical and engineering. Or all combined.
Over the last two decades the possibilities to engineer living systems have increased dramatically: microbiome research, CRISPR Cas9 based gene editing, synthetic biology, and will have powerful consequences for what it means to be human. The aim of this project is to find new ways to articulate what it means to be human in the context of this radically new concept of technology. Is CRISPR –– are contemporary biotechnologies more generally –– giving rise to a new, natural conception of technology? One aligned with nature? Is it forcing us to rethink what we mean when we say technology? The Transformations of the Human program believes that addressing these questions is necessary in order to come to better terms with the potentials and perils of bio/technical possibilities that define our time. We aim to become the major site for new intellectual and artistic productions around bio/tech –– productions that influence how bio/tech is practiced.