Machines That Dream
Benjamin David Robert Bogart
Watching and Dreaming is a body of work that enables the viewer to peer inside the “mind” of a machine to observe its perceptions, mind wanderings, and dreams. This is not a metaphorical representation of dreams, nor a technical exercise in AI such as DeepDream  but the realization of a computational model of dreaming informed by cognitive neuroscience. This level of description avoids biases towards Jungian and Freudian psychology that assume dreaming is exclusively human. Dreams should not be considered independently of the perceptual capacities of the dreamer, and thus comparing this model to human perceptual abilities is problematic. For the audience, these artworks function as entry-points to consider the constructed nature of perceptions and the continuity of waking, mind wandering, and dreaming. For the artist, the artworks are sites of knowledge-making; it is through the making of artistic works that the model (computational formalization) and theory (argument that situates the model in empirical knowledge) are developed. The research underlying these artworks integrates knowledge in multiple disciplinary dimensions: (a) The computational modeling of dreaming processes (Zhang 2009; Treur 2011), (b) generative and media artworks engaging with the concept of memory and dreaming (Franco 2007; Dörfelt 2011), and (c) the conception of dreaming as imagination (Nir and Tononi 2010). In this text, Watching and Dreaming (2001: A Space Odyssey) (2014) serves as an exemplar of the Watching and Dreaming body of work. The machine attempts to learn and predict Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey through the construction of its own subjective perception that is the basis of dreaming. “Mental” images generated during perception, mind wandering, and dreaming are subjective constructions bound to the peculiarities of the machine’s way of seeing. The body of work constitutes various manifestations of the cognitive model, not attempts to communicate the model’s mechanisms.
Between September 2009 and April 2014
Sites and Institutions
|School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser University|
|Author commentary by Benjamin David Robert Bogart|
Dreaming Mind Wandering Generative Art Site Specific Art Art As Research Cognitive Science
Digital Media Arts Neuroscience Computer Science Photography Cognitive Science Generative Art
The theory and computational model were developed in the Metacreation, Agents and Multi-Agent Systems lab at Simon Fraser University in collaboration with Dr. Steven Barnes (University of British Columbia) and Dr. Philippe Pasquier (Simon Fraser University). The research was funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.