A Prophetic San Francisco Pop-Up Art Show on the Possibilities and Dangers of A.I. Is Looking for a Permanent Home

Select pieces that explore technology's "power for destruction and good" remain on private display in the Mission District's Salesforce Tower.

Neil Mendoza, Spambots. Courtesy of The Misalignment Museum

A pop-up art installation focusing on artificial intelligence and its “power for destruction and good” has ended its initial run in San Francisco this month—but the nonprofit behind it plans to make the exhibit permanent.

The Misalignment Museum, which billed itself as an “art installation with the purpose of increasing knowledge about Artificial Intelligence,” had been on view in the Mission District since March. Select pieces remain on private display at the Salesforce Tower as the nonprofit works to secure funding for its next public opening.

“We hope to elevate public discourse and understanding of this powerful technology to inspire thoughtful collaboration, appropriate regulatory environment, and progress towards a hopeful, vibrant future,” the project’s website reads.

Giacomo Miceli, So Hold Me Mum. Courtesy of The Misalignment Museum

Such works included Spambots by Neil Mendoza, a sculpture made with a Raspberry Pi, a single-board computer about the size of a credit card. The sculpture also uses cans of Spam that have been modified to include arms that each control four keys on a keyboard.

“A.I. is increasingly being used to produce spam content,” the exhibition notes reads, adding that the Spambots are “collectively typing out prose that has been generated by a deep learning-based large language model fine-tuned on a specially altered piggy version of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.”

Another work, Infinite Conversation by Giacomo Miceli, was created using machine learning and features German film director Werner Herzog and the Slovenian philosopher Slavo Žižek have a “never-ending discussion” using A.I.-generated models trained on publicly available recordings of the two men.

Eurypheus, Genesis: In the Beginning Was the Word. Courtesy of The Misalignment Museum.

“This project aims to raise awareness about the ease of using tools for synthesizing a real voice, as this has enormous implications about the media we consume and questions about the importance of authoritative sources, breach of trust and gullibility,” the gallery notes read.

The Misalignment Museum invited Pier Group artists Kevan Christiaens, Hillary Clark and Matthew Schultz – known for their monumental work at Burning Man – to create a sculpture for the exhibit. That work, Paperclip Embrace, was made using more than 15,000 paperclips and concrete, and was based on an original, 72-foot-tall version that was set to flames at the festival in 2014.

The work was also inspired by the “Paperclip Maximizer” thought experiment on A.I. ethics, first described by Nick Bostrom in 2003.

“It also seems perfectly possible to have a superintelligence whose sole goal is something completely arbitrary, such as to manufacture as many paperclips as possible, and who would resist with all its might any attempt to alter this goal,” Bostrom wrote. “For better or worse, artificial intellects need not share our human motivational tendencies.”

Eurypheus, Gates to Hell Selfie Spot. Courtesy of The Misalignment Museum

Audrey Kim, curator of the Misalignment Museum, told Wired the project started about seven months ago—before the launch of ChatGPT sparked public concerns over chatbots and generative A.I. Kim designed the exhibit to feature dystopian pieces on the lower level with more optimistic pieces on the upper level.

“It’s weird, because it’s such a terrifying topic,” Kim said, “but it makes me happy people are interested.”


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