Cultural Heritage in the age of AI

SoPHIA releases the Newsletter 11 with a reflection on cultural heritage in the age of artificial intelligence, informs on the Final Conference, collects the discussions held during the last stakeholders' workshop, and more. We hope you like it!

SoPHIA's name has a dual connotation. It hails from Σοφία, the Greek word for wisdom, as well as from the first female robot that made its debut in 2016 and has been leaving audiences spellbound worldwide in every one of her (if a robot possesses a gender after all) public appearances.

Reading an article on James Suzman's much anticipated book "Work: A Deep History, from the Stone Age to the Age of Robots"1 which speculates on the takeover of tasks and activities constituting traditionally human work by machines and AI, sent me thinking about some of the major issues of our time which feels like a threshold between two eras. The era of humanity and the era of the post-human.

While technology changes in leaps and bounds, societies usually change over time. Some of these changes take time, are hard to predict and are difficult to guide. Others require long-term planning and careful orchestration of various aspects that affect change. But sometimes unexpected events like the pandemic bring change abruptly, even unwillingly.

How we embody the past in our present, and future narratives as a source of inspiration is what cultural heritage is about. Designing an impact assessment model for cultural heritage interventions, such as the toolkit that SoPHIA is about to release may assist communities in getting a grip and better orientate themselves by creatively and wisely drawing from cultural heritage in the uncertain terrain we see lying ahead.

An immense accumulation of artefacts marks the era of humanity which nevertheless progressively transitions from the material, through the immaterial analog to the immaterial digital, and seem to be handing over their intelligence and the tasks requiring this type of human capacity to a man-made, artificially created generation of machines. Are societies prepared for this?

Will what constitutes culture also be taken over by robots and AI, or will it remain the last bastion of humanity?

To what extent and how is this going to affect the ways that we perceive and assess cultural heritage in the future?

Will cultural heritage and its thoughtfully assessed interventions assist us in a smoother transition and more critical response to the challenges we need to face and what is coming?

Just some random and rumbling thoughts at the brink of wrapping up the adventure that SoPHIA has been for many of us forming part of the platform that has been born out of this process during the past two years...

The NTUA team

[1] James Suzman, Work: A Deep History, from the Stone Age to the Age of Robots (Penguin Press, 2021)

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