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Bacterial Mechanisms: Material Speculation on Posthuman Cognition

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Cognition is not uniquely human. Life on earth,
from microbes to mammals, has performed
cognition deep in time. Through the material
speculation that art makes possible, this paper
considers bringing forth microbial cognition as
a wider possibility for models of intelligence.
Artificial intelligence has often had human
intelligence as a parameter and aspiration. Basic
definitions of AI describe its goals in relation to
human intelligence. This paper focuses on how
art can be the place where research about nonhuman cognition in microorganisms can
encounter AI machine non-human intelligence.
Some authors like Adrian Mackenzie have
described how biology has been used as a
technology, in the specific case of bacteria as
technical objects, comparing bacterial genomes
to operating systems or in synthetic biology. [1]
[2] This project, thinking with and through art,
goes beyond DNA-centered biology and its
implied simplification, to think of
microorganisms’ cognition as a whole, in
collectivity and with its environment. [3] [4]
Lyon carefully describes non-human centered
forms of cognition present in eubacteria such as
sensory signal transduction, valence, different
forms of communication, sensorimotor
coordination, memory, learning, anticipation,
and decision making in complex and changing
circumstances. [4] Following Lyon’s work as a
theoretical framework, this paper refers to the
artwork Speculative Communications (2017) by
the art collective Interspecifics as a form of
material speculation.

Research Unit / Event Journal/Book Series


Title International Symposium on Computational Media Art
Abbreviated titleISCMA2019
LocationCityU Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre
CityHong Kong
PlaceHong Kong
Degree of recognitionInternational event