Before Siri or Alexa there was LEO
Artists design electronics, write computer programs built networks as well as paint and sculpt…if they want their ideas to work.
2020: Back in 1996 I designed and built LEO, it was more than Siri or Alexa have managed some 24yrs later. LEO was me, a network and sub personality. A holographic face and empathic link. An immortal record of my thoughts knowledge, experiences, friends, achievements. If you want to know me…ask LEO.
Here is the original event that has been online since 1996
‘Digital chaos a slacker cyberconference’:
Sunday 2nd. June 1996, The Hub, Bath,England.
First introduced to a forgiving audience at the,
International Cyber Conference, Bath, UK.
June ’96 (digital chaos)(c) paul birkeland-green 1995
Introduced by Stanley Donwood:
“Leo a sub-personality ”
from Paul Birkeland-Green.
transcript (some alterations have been made due to the appropriateness of the text).
“Firstly I would like to introduce myself and explain how my work has arrived at where it is today. I am a practising artist and over the last five years or so I have been interested in the way that we interact with the machines we create.
My particular interest is in the empathetic relationship between ourselves and manufactured goods. One event that brought this interest about was the Hollywood film ‘Bladerunner’. An issue that it raised, along with the Philip K.Dick novel that inspired it, was and is the moral question, do we have the moral right to destroy anything we make?
This has not, so far, proved much of a problem. If a radio breaks, we throw it away and buy a new one; simple. But now that we have the ability to create genetic or organic systems, such as clones of animals; what happens then? Breaking up an old radio is one thing but squashing a cloned frog is quite another; isn’t it?
So what exactly is the difference? Could it be that empathy is not just confined to living or representative things, if this is so, and it would appear that it is, what are the issues that make the difference?The embodiment of this empathy presumably lies somewhere outside of what we deem ‘natural’. It would appear to be possible to include it in ‘man-made objects’ providing certain parameters are met.
Is there a technology of existence?
The question of how we decide or make sound judgments about this situation would seem to be vital. Current technologies are creating this scenario so we are forced to address the questions.
A good starting point for me seemed to be to try and discover some of the mechanisms that allow us to interact with technology on a level that breaks down the barriers of ‘us and them’. The ones that somehow allow us to be ‘in tune’ with the systems employed. I decided to identify systems already at work that seem to succeed at this, and those that fail. Amongst others, I found that the telephone did it very well whereas, surprisingly the computer failed miserably.
Telephones really make the caller seem present. As if they are really there… with you.
I am not suggesting that anyone is unaware that they are talking to a piece of plastic that is connected to a piece of wire that runs to the callers piece of plastic. What I am suggesting is that, although an extremely simple technology and one not devoid of crackly conversations, it appears real. A virtual space that does not inhibit the user. The computer on the other hand is not at all successful in this respect. The problem I believe is primarily historical.
The computer, unlike the telephone, is the result of a market driven economy. Its development was not moulded by the needs of the technology it was merely dictated by sales in the marketplace. I believe we went wrong somewhere around the ZX81! Consequently what we have ended up with is this, a television and typewriter! An interface that bears no relationship to what goes on inside. Agreed in the 1970’s it had some relevance to what was going on. An input keyboard and visual echo on a monitor but it has more to do with a typing pool than current, Cyberspace. I mean why should we settle for such inappropriate tools to access the complexities of the Internet, it’s crazy. I must add that I am not just picking on Apple Macintosh (as I was pointing at one) any PC would look the same. Although I believe if a bad boardroom decision by Apple had not crushed the vision of, Steve Jobs, the computer interface would not be as inappropriate as it is today. Their decision to follow the market proves what I believe to be the reason behind the ‘TV and typewriter’.
‘The public gets what the public wants’ in the words of Paul Weller (then of THE JAM) so true! After all, in the television culture, the TV set represents pleasure, knowledge and entertainment. This was further advanced in the late 1970’s by the introduction of the Video cassette recorder and video games console. Both being ‘Add On’s’ to the TV. So the stage was set, anything with a TV set
connected had an advantage, and probably still does. Unlike the telephone, which had it’s interface sorted out from the outset, (and has stayed largely unchanged ever since) we have an interface to cyberspace that just doesn’t work. And those crash helmets with TV sets stuck on the front don’t work either. It does not feel real and it never will no matter how big they write VIRTUAL REALITY on them!
This led me to believe that reality is not constructed out of the true representation of the material world, it suggested that confirmation of the self during dialogue was more important. Action , reaction, and self-awareness all needed to be present whereas any further information was more likely to conflict and thereby degrade the perception of ‘reality’.I decided to try out this theory with a piece of work which explored the possibilities of virtual spaces. I did this for my degree show in 1993.
Paul Birkeland-Green. 1996
Cardboard robots make really good pets……. or at least mine did.
That was my first serious taste of virtual reality.
I was 10 and ambitious so, I soon progressed onward and upward building spaceships and time machines out of old prams and bits of timber fused together with hundreds of rusty nails; VR was imperial in those days!
If it had not been for puberty I probably would have got one of them to work? But enough of this. The point is, if there is one, is what exactly is virtual reality; I mean where does it actually exist?
Douglas Adams, the great man of wisdom (whom I once met in a bookshop in Cardiff, Wales) would answer; without hesitation, or at least not enough hesitation for you to measure, well not accurately anyway 42. And of course he would be right. For as he well knows ( is this the reason Douglas sir. Even though you have said you won’t comment anymore on that subject?)
The English/American language contains 42 phonemes. From which all our spoken language can be constructed. And as all reasoned thought is constructed from language, I think you get my drift…..or Douglas’s if he got there first.
So given that we have the answer, thank you Douglas, and the available space. i.e. grey thing between the lug-‘oles (a colloquialism friends for, Ears) the rest should be plain sailing. My cardboard robot could walk and talk…… the only problem was, only I saw and heard it.
“It would if you had an Amiga 500!”, someone suggested. But that was the problem, I only had a ZX81, and it kept running out of memory. I wonder if anyone else’s did that?
Virtual reality then, we seem to be discovering, is something to do with other people seeing what the hell you’re on about and lots of RAM; (I am still not sure if it has to be Amiga RAM) and bingo!
Cyberspace Welcomes YOU!
I once tried to get in wearing a crash helmet with a pair of pocket televisions glued to the front but they wouldn’t let me in because I wasn’t wearing jeans. It was all a bit disappointing really, the tele’s steamed up and I went deaf in one ear… some kind of tissue rejection the bloke down the pub said; so it must be right.
Now it might be, for those of you running up someones’ phone bill by reading this that either, one of the inmates is missing OR that this really IS a serious discussion about VR. Believe it or not, I believe the latter. Because the problem with VR is that everyone has their own opinion on it. Which brings the eternal problem of, COMPATIBILITY.
Causality, as an event based philosophy, uses the abstract concept of ‘Time’ as its measurement. Neatly divided into handy bite-size chunks, divisible by 60,24,7,30’ish,365.25 ( I can’t wait for some bright spark in Brussels to come along and decimalize it!)
These mechanical units tick away and place us, human beings, as observers of the passage of time; whether we want them to or not. Which is pretty handy as we are not always paying attention.
This, however, doesn’t really matter as we are always doing SOMETHING at any given moment. No time just disappears or changes its divisor from 60 etc. Or does it? It kind of rests pretty heavily on whether, Kant, was right; don’t you think?
Virtual reality has a huge problem with units of ‘Time’ and therefore causality. One problem being that ‘Unit’ sizes vary (e.g. hardware run speeds, baud rates etc.etc.) and possibly worse, they overlap!
True, it works well enough for the participant of the experience but not quite so well for an observer…. given that there is one!
Did someone say Biological clock? I do hope so because it might just be that some kind of human mechanism (I use this word reluctantly) might just come along and save the day.
Many people I know are theorising as to the implications of VR, its direction, capabilities and projected targets; but it’s all just guesswork. They have little or nothing on which to base their assumptions. Logic, great for Boolean algebra but people? I mean why has guesswork got a ‘u’ in it, it doesn’t need one….illogical…..but it’s there. Human cognitive thought; not really a high percentage of logic there really, is there. More a mishmash of input, emotion and reaction I would say.
So why don’t we give some of this fine theory a try, find out what REALLY happens when we mess about with objects, language and interaction. Get back some of the strange emotional reactions we chuck about with gay abandon.
How did it go?
Leo sits in a room reading a story, observers in the room may listen or move around at will. However, should they speak loudly in his proximity, he stops reading, looks up and declares ” I cannot continue if you will interrupt me!”
The reaction is quite dramatic, the conflict between social convention and belief of Leo’s ‘personality’ override the option to dismiss the inanimate object.
The original image built up from single black pixels.
LEO is an empathetic interface who’s purpose is to allow each of us to become part of the cyber or VR world. Leo builds up a replication of the personality who he works with as a sub -personality. You talk to him, ask him questions, share your thoughts family and friends with to the point LEO becomes a virtual you. He retains your memories, opinions, hierarchy of privacy and personal traits. More than a personal assistant or an avatar…he becomes you as you build up a database of responses, data, facts and personality. Permanently connected to the WWW with access to any fact, view or news you could ever want to know. And your Great Grandchildren in the future can ask him what you were like, for in some part he is you?An autonomous self, no wires no keyboard, just a human face with which to interact.I decided after 18 years since I first showed him to a seminar in Bath, England, June 1996 and the potential of such a system, that the time had come to release all the information on him…before someone claims to ‘invent’ or patent such a system. Most of this information has been on this website for the world to view for over 15years. I’d just like at least someone to remember, I did it first. After the Digital Chaos, I was interviewed by BBC radio to discuss LEO; the reasoning being the BBC was showing their adaption of Dennis Potter’s ‘Cold Lazarus’ and the connection was appropriate. ‘Cold Lazarus was a literal head whereas Leo is virtual however not a million miles apart?Paul Birkeland-Green 2013