The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in museums has been a topic of much discussion and speculation in recent years. From virtual tour guides to digitization projects, it seems that there is no limit to the potential uses of AI in the museum sector. However, it is important to approach the subject with a critical and reflexive mindset, taking into account both the potential benefits and potential drawbacks of using AI in museums.
It is also worth acknowledging that having an AI write this introduction may feel like a well-worn cliché. While the use of AI in museums is a relevant and important topic, it is important to be mindful of the ways in which AI is being used and to consider the potential consequences of these uses. With these considerations in mind, let us delve into the potential uses and impact of AI in museums.
The above paragraphs were written by Open AI’s Chat GPT in response to the prompt, “write a critically reflexive introduction to a blog post about the potential uses and impacts of AI for museums that also acknowledges that it is a well-worn cliché to have an AI write this.” From social media profile pictures, to new articles about AI-based text-to-image generation, to website copy, you have probably seen or heard of AI in the past year. In 2023, it seems highly likely that AI and its impact on society will be an even bigger topic of discussion.
Since more than 80% of Canadians view museums as trusted sources of information, it is important that museum professionals and volunteers stay up-to-date with major technological and societal trends. Below you will find a curated list of readings to help you better understand and critically engage with AI and AI-based tools. As with all technologies, we should carefully evaluate a tool’s benefits with its costs and as you’ll see in these readings, the human cost of AI can be extremely high.
What is AI?
From IBM, What is artificial intelligence (AI), “At its simplest form, artificial intelligence is a field, which combines computer science and robust datasets, to enable problem-solving. It also encompasses sub-fields of machine learning and deep learning, which are frequently mentioned in conjunction with artificial intelligence. These disciplines are comprised of AI algorithms which seek to create expert systems which make predictions or classifications based on input data.”
AI and Colonialism:
The impact of AI is repeating patterns of colonial exploitation. From MIT Technology Review, “European colonialism, they say, was characterized by the violent capture of land, extraction of resources, and exploitation of people—for example, through slavery—for the economic enrichment of the conquering country. While it would diminish the depth of past traumas to say the AI industry is repeating this violence today, it is now using other, more insidious means to enrich the wealthy and powerful at the great expense of the poor.”
From MIT Technology Review on data-labelling: “The insatiable demand has created a need for a broad base of cheap labour to manually tag videos, sort photos, and transcribe audio. The market value of sourcing and coordinating that “ghost work,” as it was memorably dubbed by anthropologist Mary Gray and computational social scientist Siddharth Suri, is projected to reach $13.7 billion by 2030.”