Technology learned to pray: an artificial intelligence sings mechanical prayers

The Prayer, a unique project that combines technology, art and religion, rubbed shoulders with works by Kandinsky, Frida Kahlo and Duchamp at the Center Pompidou in Paris. After passing through the French capital, the robot who knows how to pray travels to other museums in the world. In any place, his ability to sing his prayers generated by an artificial intelligence system with a mechanical voice is surprising.

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“Sometimes funny things come up,” he says with a laugh. Diemut Strebe, the artist behind The Prayer. Beyond the appearance of the little robot (a silicone nose and mouth that moves while she sings, with its mechanical entrails exposed) there is a algorithm that was trained with religious texts and prayers. Strebe does not intend a new way of approaching the celestial; Instead, he proposes reflect on the growing omnipotence of artificial intelligence.

The debate it raises is not trivial. Without detracting from the benefits of technological progress, automation gradually advances on tasks that until recently were exclusively human. They do more than compute: we saw machine learning-based methods write poems, others paint pictures, some understand jokes until recently unintelligible to machines. And worse: artificial intelligences designed for the use of weapons.

How The Prayer works

The project’s official site explains that it is an “experimental setup to explore the possibilities of approaching celestial entities by performing a potentially endless chain of religious and ritual routines.” devotional communication attempts through learning software automatic”.

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By transcending the eccentric signs of that definition, we find the bases in the performance of The Prayer. As the site explains motherboardStrebe worked on this project together with a team of artificial intelligence experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who trained the system on religious texts from around the world. The results are visible: the unique device generates its own prayers and sings them with a woman’s voice, borrowed of Amazon’s virtual assistant.

Technology learned to pray: an artificial intelligence sings mechanical prayers

“Some of the output is weird and sometimes it gets stuck,” said a data scientist involved in the project. “We hope that The Prayer stimulates thought,” he commented, in line with the artist’s intentions.

3 facts about Diemut Strebe

  • On Twitter, she defines herself as an Italian-German artist, based in Boston, United States, who works in the intersection between art and science.
  • It is listed as a futuristic artist.
  • One of his best-known proposals is a project in which he worked with scientists to get grow back Van Gogh’s ear. For that she used 3D printers and DNA from a close relative of the Dutch painter. That work “explores the potential and implications of recreating a historical person, and questions the mystification of art and the artist by the public and theorists,” reads his biography.

A reflection on artificial intelligence

“Science gave us the freedom to understand the world and control it, and now we’re getting to the next level, where technology could get out of hand”, Stebe observes that, with his art, he largely expresses what others claim: the consensus of practices for the ethical development of artificial intelligence.

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Questions such as the following appear on the platform of the initiative: Will artificial intelligence ever have emotions? Sound? Have a divine epiphany? It sounds utopian and dystopian, but it also seemed that way to the men and women who laughed decades ago at the possibility of a machine writing a poem.

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