Digital Whispers

Digital Whispers, Sami Sabik

STRP Biënnale 2017 © Hanneke Wetzer

Remember the game Chinese Whispers? A message is murmured from ear to ear in a circle and the last player announces the surprising result which is often far from the original sentence. Now imagine a world where an Artificial Intelligence joins the game, machine ears and robot voices pass on a message between themselves. Like the original game, inevitable errors will still occur, creating word chimeras, resulting in absurd sentences only a robot could have created. Using IBM’s Watson technology, Digital Whispers performs natural voice synthesis and voice recognition algorithms on seven computers that replaces the humans in this game. To begin the game you must complete the circle and tell them your first sentence.

Digital Whispers derives from Sami Sabik fascination for the (im)perfection of Artificial Intelligence (AI).“AI promises perfect systems designed to master their functions. As humans, we have imbued these artificial creatures with senses. We have given them the ability to communicate to an even nearer degree of naturalness; speech and hearing being the most developed. With these efforts, we expect these systems to be as perfect as we have designed them; but what about errors? Beautiful mispronunciation? Hearing loss? Faded meaning? What about the little misunderstandings that makes us human? Can a machine suffer from them and experience them also?”