"science + fiction" Festival

Cluster-speaker Burgard checking the reality of the film "Robot and Frank" on the festival's main stage. Photo: Levin Sottru

BrainLinks-BrainTools contributing to a science festival about artificial intelligence in Basel

From May 4 to 6, BrainLinks-BrainTools contributed to the science + fiction Festival in Basel with guest performances. Main topics of the festival subtitled "Machina Sapiens" with over 300 visitors at the Sommercasino were Artificial Intelligence and Interfaces between humans and machines.

On Thursday, May 4, PhD student Andreas Eitel (Autonomous Intelligent Systems) discussed the truth content of the movie “Her” with 100 school students from Basel in a festival prequel. Contrary to the depiction in the movie, one of the cases made by the classes was “Until 2060 there will be no emotional AI”. For the contribution to Friday’s program machine learning post-doc Dr. Joschka Bödecker teamed up with outreach expert Mathilde Bessert-Nettelbeck. After staging a chatbot conversation, Bödecker explained how such dialogue systems work, while Bessert-Nettelbeck gave a play reading using excerpts from scientific papers. On Saturday, cluster-speaker Prof. Dr. Wolfram Burgard met legal scholar Dr. Nadine Zurkinden and information ethicist Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel in a panel discussion about “Machines and Law”. Among other things they spoke about accountability models for accidents with self-driving cars and the introduction of a so-called “E-person”. Then Burgard contrasted the film “Robot and Frank” with currently feasible robotics solutions. In the following Q&A, to which philosopher Andreas Schönau was also invited, a friendly coexistence of man and machine was envisaged in a rather optimistical manner. This was quite different from the Science Jam, the last program item on Saturday, where authors of the Swiss literary magazine Narr covered the audience in an apocalyptic atmosphere with their dystopies. The participants could then work through their impressions to drum n bass sounds in a clubnight.

The science + fiction festival took place the second year in a row in 2017. It is funded by the cultural offices of the cantons Basel-Land and Basel-Stadt. Swiss TV presenter Bernard Senn is patron of the festival.