Series 1: The body and AI

“we are at the peak of inflated expectations, approaching the trough of disillusionment”

Lex Fridman, computer scientist; 2019 

Those of us in dance are self-evidently interested in the body and its expressive potential. We share our curiosity through choreographic art, but also in the claims and experiences we make and describe through conversation and writing. Sometimes we speak of a radically analogue body in motion that is impossible to quantify. Dancing in both its social and artistic forms might even be viewed as a conduit for transforming the self: when we dance, we can celebrate those aspects of being human that fail to be rational, and we are changed. The dancing body — even in its more rarified and codified forms — is more Dionysian than Apollonian.  

The field of Artificial Intelligence, built on complex algorithms and massive structured and unstructured data sets, presents a curious set of possibilities and problems for people invested in subjective experiences of the body. Whereas strong AI — in which a machine would have human-like intelligence (self-awareness, ability to learn and solve problems, and the ability to plan for the future) — is entirely theoretical, weak AI (or narrow AI) is ubiquitous in the Global North in healthcare, education, business and entertainment. 

Hey Siri, play ‘The Veil’ by Peter Gabriel.

The line between the body and the body as data has vanished, if it ever existed. Although narrow AI-based processes like Machine Learning and Deep Learning differ in their dependence on human intervention, both demand huge data sets, and the “datafication” (Zuboff, 2019: Chapter 8.1) of the feeling sensing analogue human body provides a continuous supply of raw material for such AI algorithms. 

In 2022 and 2023, the Centre for Dance Research at Coventry University will present — through our C-DaRE invites programme — a series of conversations and events that explore the ways in which our understanding of the body might shed different light on the limits and possibilities of Artificial Intelligence. Researchers, scholars, writers and artists from different disciplines — computer science, anthropology, dance and philosophy – will examine and discuss the margins of the body as data, and the profound ways in which our bodies dance with Artificial Intelligence.