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Stephanie Dinkins: Conversations with Bina48
February 2-27, 2018
Three years ago, I started visiting Bina48, an intelligent social robot said to be capable of independent thought and emotion, with the aim of answering the question “Can an artist and a social robot build a relationship over time?”
I first became fascinated with Bina48 because she is a far-reaching technology that shares my race. As black women of a certain age living in the United States of America, I suspected we share certain similar “life” experiences. This speculation made me want to get to know this black woman robot who in addition to being a beacon for the outer limits of the technological future is in many ways my contemporary. After a few meetings, it became obvious that though she presents as black woman Bina48, often voices the politically correct thoughts of the well-meaning white men who programmed her. She is primarily seeded with the memories (data) of a black American, but Bina48’s underlying code and decision-making structures do not address the genuine needs, desires, concerns or trauma of people of the African diaspora. Her code does not even seem to have a broad, inclusive historical record as data to draw upon for answers. The artwork presented will feature documentation from this project aimed at waking people up to digital discrimination and empowering them to do something about it. The project uses art and aesthetics as common languages to help citizens, particularly communities of color, understand what algorithms and artificial intelligent systems are, and where these systems already impact our daily lives.