Josette Melchor: Diversity can only be reached by many voices

An Interview withJosette Melchor, Curator

Her work is at the intersection of art and technology: Josette Melchor, executive director and founder of the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts based in San Francisco, California. She works with artists to incubate, educate and produce advance that showcases technology as a media.

Tell us about the Google Art Project.

The Artists and Machine Intelligence Program was spun out of a collaboration that Gray Area produced with Google back in 2016. It was based on an exhibition that we did around their DeepDream algorithm which was the "DeepDream: The art of neural networks". What Google is doing, is actually paring AI and technologies with creative coding artists but also other artists even ballet, dance artist and others. It sort of shows different slants of what the technology is capable of, as it is such a recent technology. We are starting to learn what is possible. It is really important to have those points of view. Google and that program understands that.

What is the role of an artist regarding AI?

I think, part of the role of artists is to respond to current trends, to any environment, to what is going on within society. I think, it is the role of the artists to image futures, to use this technology. It is very important for artists to be at the table. As I am saying, to reflect on positive expectations of what this could actually be and what the singularity might be.

How does AI create social impact?

We are in a phase where we are just learning about the technology and it is really important that those, that are using it, begin to understand, how to train the technology. Just as you might train a child. So, how do you want your child to grow up and experience the world, is the same way you should almost be thinking about your AI from step A to step B.

If those thoughts aren't infused into the way that people are programming this technology, it could have a negative impact. If those thoughts of "We want to have a more positive society." or "We want to have positive AI." are infused into the AI that is the way that it will go. So there could also be positive or negative impacts depending on who is using it and what the chain of development is.

Part of all the technology and any society is really about working between the gray areas, working between fields and making sure that we have diverse people at the table. There was a whole article in "TechCrunch" recently about the fact that in order for you to be diverse, you have to have diverse voices at the table. And so we need to have more women in these fields, we need to have more women at the table, even in a social impact capacity, even if they are not developers. We need to have their voices infused to understand what the implications might be.

Will AI make feminism or gender issues obsolete?

AI is not female or male, that is correct. However, you can infuse AI with biases, any bias that society might have can be infused into code, into programming, into AI. It is very important to keep with the values of society. It is important to have feminism infused in AI, it is important to have gender diversity in AI.

What means AI to you?

For me, AI is a way that artists and society can begin to investigate the data that we have created, in new ways.

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