Drew Hemment

Turing Fellow Drew Hemment is exploring how the arts can create interactive experiences that help to reframe problems in AI

What are you currently working on?

I'm currently working on The New Real, a joint project by Edinburgh Futures Institute, the AI and Arts interest group at the Turing and Edinburgh's Festivals. Through art and artificial intelligence (AI), our project is exploring transformative ideas relating to climate action, how our data is used and how truth is constructed online. We hope to create surprising, joyful and inclusive experiences inspired by the latest thinking in AI.

What do you hope is the impact of this work?

I believe AI arts can transform the ways we view creativity and cultural expression, and inform new concepts and paradigms for AI. It has the potential to reframe problems and provide contexts for real-world applications that can help fuel innovation in technology and science.

We see great potential for a holistic and experiential approach to explainability in AI, as well as a new research agenda on future intelligent experiences. Artists can help us to look at problems in AI in a holistic way, rather than as solely technical concerns.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

The highlight has to be demonstrating the value the arts can bring to technology R&D through FutureEverything, the digital arts festival I founded in 1995 and directed for 25 years. I've been very lucky and able to carry out many incredible projects around the world – such as when I was commissioned by the Singapore Government to conceive and direct the flagship digital culture component of Singapore’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

Can you tell me about your favourite arts-AI collaboration?

It would be our Turing 2.0 project, The New Real Observatory, a complete 'experiential AI' system developed with, and for, artists and climate advocates. It combines a data stream and forecasting pipelines for selected climate features, with AI processing engines to manipulate images, words, sounds and numbers using the climate data and forecasts as the exploratory parameters. This enables the artists to expose the operation of a machine learning algorithm, and explore the link between global-scale data and what we call “ground truth” or reality.

This project builds on the recent AWEN: A Walk Encountering Nature project which is available online for people around the world to experience. 

Do you think machines can make art better?

I think art can make better machines. However, I also think that art created with machines can help us better appreciate the limits of humans.

And finally, when not working what can you be found doing?

I can usually be found sitting on a beach in Scotland near where I live, or cycling over the hills nearby.

Want to find out more? Visit www.newreal.cc for more on The New Real, and join their session at AI UK.