2020 March: Character as Thought-Filter

As of this month I am joining a new research group at think tank and project space Exposed Arts. Our research topic is ‘Intelligence Debiased’, and I’ve been asked to think of a research question + key words to start mapping out our overlapping interests. So I’ve been thinking about how best to use this collaborative research opportunity whilst also keeping close to the interests of my PhD project. The project brief is particularly preoccupied with broadening an ‘anthropomorphic’ view of what intelligence is, and considering whether intelligence is a capacity or phenomenon applicable to systems beyond the human domain. I suspect we will discuss the various meanings of intelligence; at the moment I think ‘agency’ is a related concept.

Although the emphasis of the research project is on turning away from anthropomorphism, my own research is predominantly about persons, and secondarily about artificial intelligence. However, I think my interests are still related to the project. In my research I am questioning certain biases about the nature of personhood, and thus, I think, human intelligence. In short, while we may be ‘anthropomorphising intelligence’, our very notion of what human intelligence is might be surprisingly misled. My art practice has led me to question how the characters we play in the day to day practice of being a person is related to the realm of thought open to us. So my research question is:

Is ‘character’ a technology of the self which both enables and demarcates the limits of what is thinkable to a person? If so, could a fictional character be a prototype of general AI?

Key words: fictioning, character, personhood

What I am trying to find out in my own research is whether the practice of playing different characters, both in front of ourselves and others in daily life, is a form of thought-enabling and thought-restriction. Do these characters we inhabit open up certain particular realms of thought, and does the mutable nature of moving between different characters throughout a day mean that we fall into different modes of thought?

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