Imagine for a moment, as you walk through the 100-metre-long pedestrian tunnel of Besso, that you can observe what is happening inside an artificial brain. “NeuralRope#1” reproduces in three dimensions a large neuronal network, where the LED screens represent neurons and where ropes that connect them evoke axons and synapses, which propagate the nerve impulses between one neuron and another.
The kinship between artistic work and scientific research offers the possibility of better understanding what artificial intelligence is: scientist Luca Maria Gambardella and visual artist Alex Dorici together have created “NeuralRope#1”, in a joint effort with Lugano Living Lab and to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence (USI-SUPSI). “NeuralRope#1” is an interactive and permanent work. It is in continuous evolution: during the day it thinks and observes passers-by and at night it dreams and processes what it has seen, because “NeuralRope#1” learns from us to interpret autonomously the reality that surrounds it.
Artificial neuronal networks
The Human brain consists of billions of neurons that communicate with each other through nerve impulses propagated by axons and synapses. During our lives, synapses change, allowing us to learn, perceive the world, reason and have feelings.
The artificial neuronal network (NN) - made up of layers of interconnected neurons - digitally reproduces some of the functions of our brain and is able to learn concepts from examples. In the interactive work “NeuralRope#1. Inside an Artificial Brain” we teach an NN to distinguish forms of two kinds: triangles and squares from hand gestures. The network, initially trained in the laboratory, acquires new images by observing passers-by through the camera positioned at the beginning of the tunnel.
While learning, the NN processes the information and modifies its axons and synapses accordingly. Afterwards, the NN will show on monitors at the exit of the tunnel whether a triangle or a square is represented in the perceived image. Therefore, the NN will have observed, reasoned and learned.
Visual artist, born in Lugano in 1979. After graduating in painting and engraving, he enhanced his artistic training in Paris, from 2005 to 2010. Back to Lugano in 2010, he devoted himself to artistic installations in urban space. His site-specific artworks use materials such as ropes, tiles, tubes and adhesive tape to alter the perception of daily life places. Since 2006, he has exhibited his works in museums and galleries, both in Switzerland and abroad.
Luca Maria Gambardella
The scientist Luca Maria Gambardella was born in Saronno in 1962. He lives and works in Ticino. He obtained a degree and a PhD in Computer Science, developing a strong interest in artificial intelligence. He studies the ability of machines to learn and how robots can be autonomous. He is director of the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence (USI-SUPSI). In addition to scientific research, he dedicates himself to art with passion: he paints, makes sculptures and writes novels.