The Substitute, 2019
On March 19, 2018, the last male northern white rhino, Sudan, died, bringing his subspecies to the brink of extinction. As scientists work to resurrect the rhino through experimental and controversial biotechnologies, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg “brings back to life” a male northern white rhino using data generated by artificial intelligence to ask the question “what errors in reproduction may arise as we recreate life artificially?” Confined to a virtual room, the artificial rhino begins its life with no grid cells—specialized brain cells in mammals that help them navigate space. The rhino develops grid-cell representations as it moves around the confined space and calibrates to it, becoming increasingly intelligent. As it habituates to its environment, the rhino’s form and sound toggle from pixelated to lifelike—reminding us that this rhino, coming to life without its natural context, is entirely artificial.
It is credited
Commissioned by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and Cube design museum.
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