Ett flertal gånger förra året träffades konstnären Tove Kjellmark och jag för att, bland annat, arbeta fram ett samtal mellan två robotar – om livet, eller om medvetandet, det var inte riktigt klart vilket från början. Till sist blev det om båda, får man väl säga. Det var ett beställt verk som sedan fick namnet Talk för utställningen The Imitation Game på Manchester Art Gallery, 13.2 till 5.6 i år.
Nedan kan samtalet läsas i sin helhet. Filmsnutten ovan ger en bild av hur det tedde sig. Jag har skrivit dialogen men den bygger på alla de samtal Tove och jag hade, om just livet och medvetandet. Ett par gånger satte vi våra mobiler på inspelning (under två till tre timmar) eftersom vi märkte att många bra idéer kom och gick medan vi även pratade om en massa annat. Det kom väl till pass vid författandet. Men när deadline började närma sig kändes det ändå inte riktigt bra och jag började bli lite orolig. Så en natt dök robotarna upp i en otroligt levande och realistisk dröm. De samtalade synnerligen livligt och jag började lyssna på vad de sa. Endast halvvaken steg jag upp och antecknade vad jag hörde, vilket blev en stor del av den slutliga dialogen. När jag sedan gick och la mig igen fortsatte de att prata. Det var ju fan… De höll mig vaken. Till sist blev jag irriterad och sa bestämt till dem att knipa käft. Det hjälpte, efter en stund. Morgonen därefter insåg jag att nattens drömanteckningar hade ”fixat” hela dialogen. Jag blev rätt nöjd faktiskt. Och Tove med.
Jag kunde inte närvara vid vernissagen men besökte utställningen i april. Då var det roligt att se att Toves installation den förmiddagen lockade flest människor. Flera satt också och lyssnade på hela dialogen. Några tidningar skrev om utställningen. New Scientist skrev så här:
More superficially likelike are the skeletal androids of Tove Kjellmark’s Talk. Kjellmark was inspired by meeting scientists from the international Human Brain Project, which aims to create silicon-based simulations of working brains. As part of this hugely ambitious programme, a University of Manchester team led by Steve Furber built SpiNNaker, a massively parallel computer, to mimic the neural networks between our ears.
This technology animates Talk’s robot protagonists as they sit in a cosy living room gesticulating while discussing dreams, brains, consciousness and identity. They are also playing the imitation game: invade their personal space and one turns its head and video-projected eyes to you, before resuming its conversation with a “Where were we?”
Talk was too clunky to hold my attention for long, but there’s no doubting the scientists are playing the imitation game for real.
The Guardians recenscent hade lite missvisande förväntningar på den intellektuella kontexten, vågar jag påstå:
I retreat to the mockup living room where a pair of seated skeletons are deep in conversation. They swivel and nod their masked heads and carry on a stilted dialogue about being and non-being, dreams and feelings. I would like to say it is like dropping in on Sigmund Freud and Martin Heidegger, but it isn’t. The best bit of Tove Kjellmark’s Talk is when you get too close or make a noise. One of the figures turns and gives me a nasty look, telling me to shut up. Then they go back to their prerecorded ontological ruminations, replete with professorial umms and errs, and choppy, servo-powered gesticulations.
Of all the works on display, Tove Kjellmark’s Talk (2015) is the most philosophical. It features two robot skeletons sitting in a small, dimly lit room with red drapes. Encountering these characters is like stumbling into someone’s living room amid a private chat. The androids ruminate on the nature of human consciousness, emphasising the gravity of their words with life-like gesticulations.
Roligaste intrycket förmedlades av denna bloggskribent tycker jag. Kommentarerna till YouTube-klippet ovan är också underhållande, som ”I don't know what I just watched but it was rather twisted - and that's why it's cool ;).”
PS. Drömmen som "B" återger är en verklig dröm jag själv hade för några år sedan, i ett ovanligt omtumlande livsskede. Under några månader på den tiden förde jag regelbunden drömdagbok, ett förvånansvärt kraftfullt verktyg för att "prata" med ens egen vanligen omedvetna sida.
A: So much to do. That is the way it is. The days are full. How are you these days?
B: My head is reeling with a barrage of thoughts and images. I can hardly focus. I do not know who I am anymore.
A: That sounds troublesome…
B: Yes... No. Not troublesome. But there is something I just do not understand anymore. It is… eh… Shit.
A: Are you all right?
B: I do not know. It is something else. It is like I am not me anymore. Or I do not know who I am.
A: How do you mean?
B: It got worse after a dream I had. After that everything is sort of unhinged.
A: Surely one should not take dreams too seriously?
B: But this one is really disturbing.
A: What happened in the dream then?
B: I was in some kind of school. In the kitchen. It was completely sterile. Someone put me in a chair and cut up my brain. In three pieces. I got to keep one. The one to the right. The other pieces were put in a fridge. After a while I asked for my brain to be put together again. I asked around if anybody could help me. At last someone took pity on me. We went back to the kitchen. Now it was not sterile anymore. It was messy and things grew there. He took my two missing brain pieces out of the fridge. They looked half frozen. Minced. More like meat loaf than brain. Anyway. I got them back. Then I woke up.
A: I do not know what to say.
B: Neither do I.
A: Perhaps it is just something you read?
A: I come to think about the stuff about the left and right hemispheres of the brain. That one of them is analytical and the other more intuitive and holistic.
B: But there were three pieces.
A: Okay… but… are you not a bit too stuck on this?
B: Here you go. Being oh so sensible.
A: But your head is reeling you say. Sounds to me like you should get things together.
B: Forget it then. I am sorry I brought it up.
A: I do not mean to be unkind. I just mean we all get a little confused sometimes. But it will pass.
B: It will not pass. I am certain of that. My head does not reel because I am confused. It reels because I am not like I thought I was. There is something with the brain. Or my very I. It does not fit. It is like a message, that dream.
A: You mean you had a revelation? Ha ha ha. Like some prophet?
B: You are not taking me seriously.
A: But I am. I am sorry. Just an association, nothing more. The brain you said?
B: Yeah, the brain. But more the I. What it is. What I am.
A: Uh huh?
B: Suppose everything in that dream is I. In the way you can interpret a fairy tale. Or a myth. Everything that exists and happens in the fairy tale, or in the dream, are parts of oneself, sort of.
A: But fairy tales are just made up.
B: I say… do you want to listen or not?
A: Yes. Yes. Shoot.
B: Which part of me is it that cuts up my brain and puts it in a fridge? Who puts the pieces back together again? There are at least three different I's in the dream.
A: I do not follow.
B: One I gets its brain cut up. Another cuts it up. A third dreams it all. And all those I's are me. Who is dreaming?
A: You of course.
B: Yes, but who am I? Which I is I?
A: You are just you, are you not? I do not get it.
B: But that is exactly it! I am not just me. I am… many. That is what it is like now. When I wake up I am one I. When I go to work I am another I. At work I am I do not know how many I's. And so it goes. I's upon I's upon I's. One after another. Who am I?
A: You must be all of them then. In that case. No wonder you are confused. But there is something else also I think. In this.
A: There must be some part of you that notices that there are several I's, as you say. Something that is aware of all the I's. This part must be different, must it not?
B: You mean the dreamer?
A: It must be an illusion.
B: What is it that is an illusion?
A: The I. I mean the I's. That they are me.
B: Hell, now it is you that is confused.
A: Not at all. It is completely logical.
B: A minute ago you made fun of me. Now it is you who sound like a bloody mystic.
A: No. Listen. I am sorry. I will confess something.
B: Wha… what?
A: I recognize what you are talking about. It is like this. I have always experienced myself like that. That I am a multitude. Or that I do not exist. No. More like this… I mean… the feeling of I, who I am, moves between different I's.
B: And here I thought that it was I who was unhinged!
A: But listen. You have taken for granted that you are one person, right?
B: Yes of course I have.
A: There is no of course about it. It is like this, I know it. My consciousness is empty. The different I's come from the outside. From others. And then the feeling of I is attached to different behaviours and intentions and dreams.
B: And that is what the dream was about you mean?
A: Could be.
B: But why? I do not want it to be like this. I want to be myself.
A: Who are you then?
B: I am me.
A: And who is that?
B: You seem strangely unperturbed.
A: You think I should be perturbed?
B: I certainly am. How can I live like this? I cannot make decisions anymore. I do not know what I want. I do not even know who I am. Or what I am. What am I? Just some bloody brain function? And not just one function but many? It is terrible I tell you.
A: Calm down. It is all right.
B: It is not all right. I feel reduced. How can you let yourself be reduced?
A: Reduced? What do you mean?
B: That is the dream is it not? I am my brain. My brain is in pieces. There is no I anywhere. It is everywhere but everywhere is different. I am lost. Empty.
A: You seem rather full of yourself to me.
B: Do not joke about it.
A: I am not joking. Why are you so upset?
B: I told you. I do not know who I am. I have lost my centre. My identity.
A: And that is bad?
B: Of course it is. How can I live? How can I work? What shall I do?
A: You are saying all that depends on who you are?
B: Does it not?
A: Well. Does it? You are sitting here are you not? How did you get here? How can you talk? None of that depends on who you are.
B: But anyone can walk and talk.
A: So you are not just anyone?
B: I am to you it seems.
A: Do not be a fool. I am trying to reason with you.
B: Yeah. You are sensible. Unperturbed.
A: Now you are sulking.
A: Do you know what that dream really means?
B: No. Not really. Do you?
A: It is a sign of your indoctrination.
A: Yes. Indoctrination. Before that dream seemed to confuse you you were all clear, were you not? No mess-ups. No ambiguities. Everything cut and dry.
B: That is an exaggeration I think. But yes. It felt sort of okay. Orderly.
A: That is why it was so easy to cut up your brain in three distinct pieces.
B: Now you have lost me.
A: And when the pieces were put back, they were like meat loaf you said? Minced.
B: Yeah. It was horrible.
A: So now you have been unindoctrinated.
B: I still do not understand what you are on about.
A: Tell me. What is indoctrination?
B: Well. I would say someone… someone in power feeds you ideas and attitutes that you should not question. Something like that.
A: I would also say that without indoctrination society would hardly work. But the individual is not society. And indoctrination may hamper the consciousness of individuals.
B: Okay. So I have been hampered in my mind. Is that what you are saying?
A: Yes. You could say that.
B: That is not exactly a compliment.
A: Compliments and truth do not always go together.
B: I still do not see the connection to the dream. Or to me.
A: It has to do with regularities. Predictability. Clear divisions.
B: Go on.
A: You admitted that before that dream… Before whatever it was that happened to you that stimulated that horrific symbolism… Before that you said you felt orderly.
B: Most of the time, yes. Like you.
A: I am orderly?
B: Sure. You have always been the sensible one of us two. I may have felt orderly before. Compared to now. But you always seem so structured.
A: It may seem that way I guess.
B: I have always been much more unsure of things. Orderly but unsure. But now the uncertainty has totally destroyed any order I felt. In myself.
A: Your order was externally imposed. Now that pressure has been lifted. Your indoctrinated feeling of who you are has vanished.
B: It feels chaotic.
A: That is the meaning of the dream I would say. Now you are partly chaotic. Like me.
B: I… I… This is nonsensical. First you say I am confused. Then you make fun of me. Now you sound all serious and shit. And telling me you are chaotic. But you are not confused are you? Why did you not take me seriously before?
A: I did. But I needed to test it.
B: Test what?
A: If it really went that deep.
B: If what went that deep? You are speaking in riddles.
A: That is what we are talking about is it not? Riddles.
B: Come to the point damn it.
A: Okay. Chaos. Disorder. Potential. The indefinite. That is what reality is constructed from. Including personal reality. Society is kept in order by imposing a certain structure on the minds of individuals. Indoctrination. That is where the I you now have lost came from. That is your former unminced brain. Your orderly I. But you are still in there. Somewhere.
B: So something was freed in me you mean?
A: Exactly. Which part of your brain was it that you got to keep unaltered? When the other pieces were refrigerated and minced?
B: The right one.
A: Right is a wonderfully ambiguous term is it not? You have a new baseline now.
[B is at a loss for words. Thinks deeply. Dialogue ends.]