Cognitive Infrastructures

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"As artificial intelligence becomes infrastructural, and as societal infrastructures become more cognitive, the relation between AI theory and practice needs realignment. Across scales and back again, from world-datafication and data visualization, to users and UI, many of the most interesting problems in AI design are still embryonic.

Natural Intelligence emerges at environmental scale and in the interactions of multiple agents. It is located not only in brains but in active landscapes. Similarly, artificial intelligence is not contained within single artificial minds but extends throughout the networks of planetary computation: it is baked into industrial processes; it generates images and text; it coordinates circulation in cities; it senses, models and acts in the wild.

This represents an infrastructuralization of AI, but also a ‘making cognitive’ of both new and legacy infrastructures. These AIs are capable of responding to us, to the world and to each other, in ways we recognize as embedded and networked cognition.

AI is increasingly physicalized, from user interfaces on the surface of handheld devices to deep below the built environment. As we interact with the world, we retrain model weights, making actions newly reflexive, knowing that performing an action is also a way of representing it within a model. To play with the model is to remake the model, increasingly in real time.

How might this transform human-AI interaction design? What happens when the production and curation of data is for models that are increasingly generalized, multimodal, and foundational? How might the collective intelligence of generative AI make the world not only queryable, but re-composable in new ways? How will simulations collapse the distances between the virtual and the real? How will human societies align toward the insights and affordances of AI, rather than AI bending to human constructs? Ultimately, how will the inclusion of a fuller range of planetary information, beyond traces of individual human users, expand what counts as intelligence?"

(email from , january 2024)