What is Economy for Whales?

  • What is Economy for Whales? 

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    Designing Artificial Intelligences Inspired by Animals’ Sensing

    'What is Economy for Whales?' is a workshop in which designer Ianis Dobrev will guide us through his research on embodied intelligence. Together we will explore how all forms of cognition are always embodied and thus come with subjective biases. Acknowledging it will highlight the urgency of artistic involvement within the discussion of a global value system.

    In today’s western techno-economic system, artificial agents hold most of the financial agency, and thus shape society’s development. What does it mean? It means that finance distributes capitals in strategic points within the economy to help it flourish faster. If this work used to be done by traders until recently, it is now almost fully automated with algorithms that reproduce the profitable moves, at the speed of light. Some argue that the market’s objectivity and computation’s rationality are what lead to the common’s best interests. But is it?

    Algorithmic trading mimics the behaviour of traders in search of profit. The neoliberal school of thoughts argue that the competition of rational agents seeking their individual interest is the healthiest ground for a prosperous economy that serves at best the commons.This vision assumes that individually-minded being is the fundamental brick to construct a thriving ecosystem.

    In this workshop we will deconstruct the multitude of phenomenons from which emerges what we call consciousness within living forms. By exploring the material support – the biological hardware – of various animals, we will attend to simulate forms of consciousness that would emerge from those other species. We will do so by breaking down the various channels that allow bodies to sense specific spectrums of reality. The weaving of many senses defines the perceptive world in which animals live. It also influences the growth of nervous networks which process this information to project a mental understanding of the environment. In other words, the thoughts produced by an animal’s brain are only limited to the subjective realm it senses. And so are shaped some notions taken for granted such as individuality of the self; in contrast to its ecological definition.

    Join us to explore how cognitive frameworks inspired by other species’ subjective experience can inspire new design for the human anthropic economy. Together we will see how to generate philosophical ideas from empirical knowledge taken from the fields of evolutionary biology and neuroscience; how some animals navigate the world of chemicals through smell and taste; how others mostly sense the kinetic rippling of molecules or ‘see’ sounds. Ultimately, we will use those philosophical outcomes as driving forces for this intangible system we call Economy. What is meaningful when you perceive traces of the past better than the present or when your body behaves according to atmospheric pressure flows? Would we design the same tools to make sense of our economic activity?

    Our goal is to put artists, designers and creative thinkers at the forefront of societal debates instead of leaving them as mere witnesses and analysts.

    About the artist

    Ianis is an artist, designer and writer whose work tackles the nature of cognition. Combining and blending epistemologies from interdisciplinary fields of research, his practice fundamentally abstract and atomises the function of various phenomenons to extract the codes and structural qualities that prevail depending on the lens used to look at them. Ultimately, Ianis seeks plastic ways to give new textures to those intangible matters, thus opening new critical understandings of it.

    His work currently focuses on the effect of money as crystallizing memory and hence finance working as cognitive technology to make sense of the multitude of social and ecological transactions occurring between human beings and beyond. He looks at biological models to propose a less poor and fair application of such technology.

    Ianis Dobrev (born 1996 FR) holds a Bachelor from the Art & Design School of Saint-Étienne, France, and a second from the Design Academy Eindhoven. He is currently based in Rotterdam.

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