• Why We Get the Robot Overlords We Deserve

    Many months ago, while still developing this year’s theme, Larry Harvey began receiving a series of robocalls in which an automated system tried to fool him into thinking it was a human woman, explaining away any odd delays or inabilities to understand simple questions by claiming its headset wasn’t working right. A few weeks after …Read More


2018 Art Theme

  • 2018 Man Pavilion: IAMAI and the Burnbots

    As a manifestation of the I, Robot theme, the 2018 Man base experience will offer an exploration of humankind’s decidedly mixed feelings about algorithmic intelligence, cybernetic augmentation, and the mystery of what it means to be human in an increasingly automated world. The 2018 Man will be positioned atop an enormous gear, a nod to …Read More
  • I, ROBOT

    1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does …Read More

Robot News


  • “Artificial Intelligence” Was Never About Intelligence – Conclusion to the I, Robot Series

    Several times in this series, leading minds in their fields called for AI development to stop so that humanity can have a chance to think, a chance to process, a chance to imagine the right future and how to get there. That is not happening. France has a national AI strategy with $2 billion in …Read More
  • I, Robot — We, God

    “People create Gods when they wonder why things happen. Do you know why things happen? Because Gods make them happen. Do you want to know how to make good things happen? Be good to your God. You give a little, you get a little. The simplicity of that bargain has always been appealing…” — Mr. …Read More
  • Can Humans Think Like Humans? (Radical Self-Reliance in the age of AI)

    In principle, the debate we’re having is how to make Artificial Intelligence more human, more ethical, and how to treat it once it’s achieved that. How do we get computers to live up to our standards? But the experience we are actually living seems to be going in the exact opposite direction. The AIs coming …Read More
  • How Harmless Little Lies About Consciousness Add Up to Big, Scary, Dystopias About Advertising

    Technology changes fast, so let’s take a moment to stop and review.   Better Off a Bot   Shortly before we started this series, six months ago, an “artificial intelligence” had been given citizenship by a sovereign nation for the first time in history: a female shaped automaton, “Sophia,” had been made a formal member …Read More
  • Care to Be Human?

    Cogito Ergo Sum In 1637, before we, as a human race, knew what a robot was (although there was the notion of a “machine, not yet invented, that could…”) we crossed a threshold and became “robots.” 380 years later we are slowly realizing that something has gone missing. When Descartes uttered these words, “I think, …Read More
  • The Inscrutable Oneness of Being: Using Machine Learning on Burning Man

    Have you ever “found yourself” at Burning Man? It’s a cliché, but it’s something people say, right? I wouldn’t personally go that far, but I have had profound moments there, and elsewhere, that have truly moved my mindset forward. These epiphanies have occurred when I’m both thinking very hard about something while also not really …Read More
  • How Cyborgs Replace “Stories” With “Code,” And What Happens Next

    On January 6, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System sent a letter to Apple executives urging greater study into the impact of smart phones on the cognitive capacity and mental health of children, because it thinks there’s considerable evidence that using the devices causes them harm. They’re not alone. Beginning this fall, France is planning …Read More
  • From Robots to Intelligent, Autonomous Agents

    If your autonomous agent has a right to free speech and you own the agent, is that right independent of yours, or an extension of yours? How can you keep your stuff from ganging up on you, or from revealing secrets that you hadn’t previously recognized were secret? Questions like this make me happy I chose data science over law school. …Read More
  • Successful AI Will Usher in a New Era of Theology

    For the hundreds of years that comprised the “Middle Ages,” theology was the most cherished and important intellectual discipline, the one that the best and brightest minds worked in, the one that all other fields of study yielded to and were justified by. We like to think that could never happen again, because Science (with …Read More
  • The Three Laws of Robotics Can’t Save Us

    Isaac Asimov made some very interesting thought experiments about Artificial Intelligence and the world it creates in I, Robot.  But thought experiments aren’t predictions, and what’s most noticeable about the book now, 68 years after its first publication, is just how little relevance it has to our current dilemmas about AI and automation. In Asimov’s …Read More
  • What if Kafka Was a Cyberpunk? (The Connection Between AI and Bureaucracy)

    At the time Kafka wrote his infamous novels about human beings struggling to make sense of a world full of unaccountable and inscrutable bureaucracies, there was no Artificial Intelligence. And yet … the closest thing any of us may ever experience to a Kafka-esque nightmare is trying to work our way through an automated phone …Read More
  • What Is It We Think Humans Can Do That Robots Can’t?

    If this essay were a classic sci-fi script, then by the end the computer I’m writing it on would experience Love for the first time and, unable to process it, explode and shut down. I guess I’m Captain Kirk in this analogy. That does not happen often. “Spiritual Materialism” Meets “Intellectual Idealism” on Tinder “Love” …Read More
  • Why We Get the Robot Overlords We Deserve

    Many months ago, while still developing this year’s theme, Larry Harvey began receiving a series of robocalls in which an automated system tried to fool him into thinking it was a human woman, explaining away any odd delays or inabilities to understand simple questions by claiming its headset wasn’t working right. A few weeks after …Read More


  • Is Burning Man an Open-Source Cloud Based Culture?

    It’s often said that Burning Man and the internet grew up together: both started emerging at around the same time in the late 80s, went through a “wild wild west” phase in the 1990s, when they were seen as counter-cultures. Both started to get really big around the turn of the century, and both became …Read More
  • Human Nature Is a Symphony, Technology Is Changing the Instruments

    Vanderbilt Professor of History Michael Bess is the author of Our Grandchildren Redesigned: Life in the Bioengineered Society of the Near Future (Beacon Press, 2015), and the forthcoming book What makes us human? From neurons to the Sistine Chapel.  He is the technologies that may destroy us, including artificial intelligence and genetic engineering. The risks …Read More
  • Paradox Is at the Heart of Human Nature

    In his previous work, leading Existential Psychologist Kirk Schneider has put the experience of “awe” at the center of human psychology. Without experiencing awe, life tends to become flat, mechanical, and unhealthy — a prison to be broken out of, rather than a possibility to grow into. In his new book, The Spirituality of Awe:  …Read More
  • Artificial Intelligence Is Just a Story, and We Can Tell a Better One

    Amazon has recently confirmed reports that its home operating system “Alexa,” has been spontaneously laughing for no apparent reason, occasionally refusing to obey commands, and sometimes performing actions that were never asked for. No one has any idea why — is this a bug? A glitch? A hacker attack? — but internet pioneer and Microsoft …Read More
  • An Empowering Robot is an Ethical Robot

    The problem with the way we try to give AI ethics is that we design these ethics to work for the status quo, the way things are right now. But things never stay the same for long, the status quo is constantly changing, and so that sets our AI ethics up to fail. That’s the …Read More
  • How to Practice Being Human: An Interview With Dr. Sherry Turkle

    Our problem isn’t that Artificial Intelligence is getting better at being human, it’s that human beings are getting worse at it. That’s one of the conclusions that MIT psychologist Dr. Sherry Turkle, who has been studying the psychological impact of technology on its users since the dawn of the internet. One of the foremost researchers …Read More