Can large-scale geoengineering be a solution to global warming? Can artificial intelligence (AI) control such technologies? What could be the impact on our society, on wealth and power, on communities?
Engineering meets ethics meets art. A digital installation, led by Professor Jason Millar, Canada Research Chair in the Ethical Engineering of Robotics and AI, and Chantal Rodier, Artist in Residence at the Faculty of Engineering, explores those questions.
The project is called Calibrating Stretched Transparency. “[It] aims to explore and disseminate the intersection of geoengineering and AI, while also critiquing its ethical implications through a visual medium,” explains Sarah Jasmine Hodgson, one of the artists involved in the project.
Using AI and maps, the artists—Sarah Jasmine Hodgson and Willem Deisinger—created a digital installation that engages engineers, artists, and even political leaders to critically think about the impact of large-scale geoengineering projects. “This is a conversation between the perspectives and power of certain tools used in geoengineering, and those of the people who wield them,” reads their artists’ statement.
The topic is one the team was eager to tackle.
Why did you choose to work on this project? What motivates you?
Sarah: When Chantal Rodier and Jason Millar reached out and proposed the opportunity to take on this project, I didn’t quite know what I was getting into, and I still don’t, but that’s the beauty of it. Not knowing what the results of the project would be, I chose to work on it because it would be an opportunity to create researched-based artwork within an institution with a multitude of resources and because I would be able to create collaborative work with a dear friend of mine as well as an artist that I admire, Willem Deisinger.
Willem: This project all came together as an opportunity to collaborate on a project with a good friend, while also having the opportunity to tackle such an interesting topic of geoengineering with the help of two professors. Working with others whom you admire and get along with is an amazing starting point for any project and I couldn't be happier that we all have this opportunity to work together! Not only do I really enjoy grappling with the ideas of the project, the ethics of artificial intelligence and geoengineering, but it's incredibly motivating to see how we've all been developing ideas about the work as we progress with it.
What do you hope people get from seeing the installation?
Sarah: I hope that viewers will reflect on the work and begin to further question the technological tools they use in their day-to-day life and discover the biases that are embedded within them.
Willem: Given our topic's nature of exploring implicit biases within technology, I'd hope that our piece begins as a starting point, and a fresh one, for the viewer to begin understanding certain biases that they interact with.
The project launched on November 9, during the UN’s Climate Change Conference, COP26 – a great moment to engage our community on the topic of climate change.
But for Professor Millar, Chantal Rodier, and the artists, this is only the beginning.
They will be working on this installation over the next year and maybe beyond. “The beauty about these kinds of projects is that they offer an opportunity to explore what you've started with through an entirely new light that you might not have begun with,” shares Willem. “I hope this can not only be found within the process of our project but be expressed in the final piece.”
Their plan is for this installation to keep living digitally and to find a physical location to continue to engage the public in discussions about the technologies associated with geoengineering and climate change.
To learn more about this installation and the artists involved, visit the Calibrating Stretched Transparency webpage.