Our planet is collapsing and humanity is the biggest threat to itself and all earthly species. We are living in the Anthropocene, a geological epoch in which human beings have irreversibly altered Earth. What comes next?
How should we react to the continually dissolving boundaries between humans, nature and technology? How can we depart from our human-centric perspective to build a truly non-anthropocentric world? Interspecies Future responds to these questions. It is the beginning of a civilisational journey to reevaluate and deepen our relationship with all living entities.
Interspecies Future is a movement dedicated to advancing the rights and opportunities of nonhuman life on Earth. Emphasising the essential role of cross-disciplinary work, it convenes researchers and organisations from biology, life and computer science, ethics and policy, animal rights, Indigenous perspectives and creative practice. Research confirms that technology will play a fundamental role alongside these disciplines, in promoting Interspecies empathy. Artificial Intelligence and planetary-scale computing have allowed human beings to envision Earth as an interconnected entity. Through such interdisciplinary processes, Interspecies thought will be implemented in policy and sociopolitical organisation.
‘The entire project of progress relies on expressing ideas that are themselves saturated in the very biases that we are trying to push against. And that inherent contradiction in progress is something AI brings us face to face with.’
– Blaise Agüera y Arcas
Since being founded in 2016, LAS has sought to advance a collective understanding of humanity’s role in the world, by commissioning hybrid experiences of art, technology and science. We aim to help shape Interspecies discourse by providing the movement’s critical creative dimension. Embracing a panoramic view of technological possibilities, we want to positively influence the trajectory of art and emergent technology, for the benefit of all species.
As one strand of our programme, we are exploring Interspecies Future. Next Spring we will realise the first international edition of British artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg’s Pollinator Pathmaker. Merging art, ecological science and activism, this piece consists of an international network of Edition Gardens designed using advanced algorithmic technology to serve the needs of pollinating insects. Each Edition Garden is created using a plant palette tailored to the conditions of its host region, in collaboration with local ecosystem experts. These palettes are subsequently released online, allowing the gardens can be planted in local communities. In this way, Daisy Ginsberg’s Pollinator Pathmaker extends an Interspecies ethos of artmaking beyond the boundaries of individual artistic agency and art institutions.
Sometimes the development of Interspecies Futures requires delving into historical time. It was in this spirit that Jakob Kudsk Steensen undertook his LAS-commissioned exhibition Berl Berl (2021), a multimedia incantation of Berlin Brandenburg’s historical wetlands. Using state-of-the-art macro photogrammetry, the Danish artist researched and documented this little understood ecosystem, which formed 10,000 years ago as a glacial valley. Kudsk Steensen then used the Unreal video game engine to transform his photographic findings into a kaleidoscopic audiovisual installation. Enveloping viewers in shapeshifting projections of the region’s flora and fauna, Berl-Berl was an embodied encounter with the wetlands’ ecological past – a real-time experience of a truly Interspecies relationship with our non-human world.
‘When we put things in terms of economic incentives, maybe think about what that means, into what end, and for who those incentives are needed. Maybe it's not about an immediate form of revenue within one generation, but understanding how to be the custodians of something for many generations to come.’
– Amelia Winger-Bearskin
An integral part of our engagement-oriented programme, LAS’s Interspecies Future podcast builds upon our recent IF symposium. Episode one investigates the objectives and principles of Interspecies work. In Episode two we delve into the challenge of establishing rights for nonhuman species. These tasks require a deepened sensitivity to non-human life. Episode three discusses how robotics, and satellite and molecular sensing can be used to translate and map non-human worlds. This endeavor will necessarily be guided by a deep understanding of how AI has been used throughout history to simulate and model nature. Episode four illuminates this central topic in greater depth. Together with these collaborators, we’re thrilled to foray into our Interspecies Future. This journey into a more empathetic world is just beginning.
Episode 1: An Introduction to Interspecies Future with K Allado-McDowell and Jonathan Ledgard
In our first episode we hear from two Chairs of the Interspecies Future Symposium, K Allado-McDowell and Jonathan Ledgard. Here we introduce how this discipline has emerged and where it may take us. Our guests and Chairs of the Interspecies Future Symposium take stock of the objectives of Interspecies work, disciplines represented, the general approach and values for this new discipline.
Episode 2: Organising the Interspecies: Governance, activism, DAOs with Patrick Rawson and Amelia Winger-Bearskin
Using AI to aid nonhumans will require participation from large-scale organisations, both scientific/technical and social/governing as well as communities on the ground. Those with direct relationships with non-humans likely have the largest stake in the outcomes of Interspecies work. To organise and operationalise this new discipline, we need a framework for understanding what are the rights of nonhumans. How we articulate these will depend on our core assumptions about interspecies relationships, governance, and how we represent nonhuman life in a time of climate change and extinction threats. In this episode we speak with Patrick Rawson, Web3 advocate and founder of Curvelabs; and Amelia Winger-Bearskin, a Banks Family Preeminence Endowed Chair of Artificial Intelligence and the Arts, Digital Arts and Sciences at the University of Florida, Digital Worlds Institute.
Episode 3: Sensing the Interspecies with Martin Wikelski and Xiaowei Wang
To redesign relationships between humans and non-humans through new technologies and forms of interspecies organisation we must be able to sense and understand them. Naturalist science has done this through various human and technical means, but developments in robotics, satellite, and molecular sensing afford a massively increased capacity for sensing and mapping the lives of non-humans. In this episode, we consider what it means to translate the non-human world through new sensing technologies, in conversation with Martin Wikelski, founding Director of the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior and Professor in Biology at the University of Konstanz; and Xiaowei Wang, new media artist, writer and organiser.
Episode 4: Interspecies Thinking: AI and collective intelligence with Blaise Agüera y Arcas and Kate Devlin
We start with the core thesis that AI can drive a new relationship between humans, non-humans and technology. While sensing is the first capability required to generate data for AI to learn from, we first need to understand this possibility as a frame for Interspecies. In conversation for this episode are Blaise Agüera y Arcas, VP and Fellow at Google Research, working on research and new products in AI; and Kate Devlin, Reader in Artificial Intelligence & Society in the Department of Digital Humanities at Kings College London.
Episode 5: Imagining the Interspecies Part 1 with Bettina Kames and Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg
Technologies and social structures cannot exist without first being imagined; what we can imagine conditions what we can create. The role of the artist is to make imagination felt, to bring new worlds into existence through sensory experience. It is critical that new technological and organisational initiatives engage directly with artists. As we develop new capacities to sense, think about, and organise around an interspecies future, we look to artists to help us understand what an interspecies world feels like, what it means to be a subject in this world, and what new possibilities for expression and communication might be realized. Here, Director of Light Art Space Bettina Kames, is in conversation with artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg.
Episode 6: Imagining the Interspecies Part 2 with Stanley Qiufan Chen and Jakob Kudsk Steensen
In this second exploration of the Interspecies via creative practice, we hear from science-fiction author Stanley Qiufan Chen and artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen, in conversation. They discuss a need for new forms of communication across species, and relate this concept to how they communicate in their own practices in multidisciplinary ways. Chen and Steensen discuss AI and how it has influenced our relation to other intelligences. They also explore narrative and alternatives to this linear logic through new rhythms – both literal and metaphorical – and the importance of intersubjectivity. By animating other worlds through mythology, science, technology, space, and sound, we come closer to a collective awakening of an Interspecies Future.
This episode features an extract from Re-Animated, an artwork by Jakob Kudsk Steenson. It features the voice of the Ornithologist, Douglas H. Pratt. The call of the Kaua’iʻōʻō bird is used with permission from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.
Episode 7: Interspecies Future Symposium Highlights
In this episode we hear highlights from the Interspecies Future Symposium which took place at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin in July 2022. The event set out to mark the beginning of a multi-decade civilisational journey to define the Interspecies discipline and set pathways to bend the evolution of AI towards nature. Throughout four panel discussions we heard about the importance of empathy for non-humans, open access data, new modelling in AI, kinship with the nonhuman world, how we navigate rights for the nonhuman world, and more.
Episode 8: Interspecies Future: Pathways forward with Ted Schmitt and Andrea Leiter
It is clear that Interspecies work is complex, multi-faceted, and requires interdisciplinary collaboration with both the human and nonhuman world. This episode speculates on pathways forward, reflecting on technologies, resources, the problems we face and how we may work through them to productively take Interspecies work forward. Topics range from systems thinking and systems change, to small-scale token economics. We hear from Ted Schmitt, Director, Conservation at the Allen Institute of AI, and Andrea Leiter, Director of Research at the Sovereign Nature Initiative.
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