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Seattle Museum unveils a new exhibit that explores the potential and origins of artificial intelligence


Tower of Hanoi is a three-pole game that requires players to build a tower from one pole. The goal is to move each piece one at a while and not place a larger or smaller ring on top. This exhibit also shows how a computer can think sequentially. (GeekWire Photo / Charlotte Schubert)

Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry opens a new exhibit this Saturday called “Artificial Intelligence: Your Mind & The Machine.”

GeekWire got a sneak peek Wednesday at a press event and tour, led by curator HP Newquist, a tech writer and author of a 1994 book on the history of artificial intelligence, “The Brain Makers.”

This exhibit starts with some background. It touches on myths like the Jewish Gollum, a figure brought to life from dust, and describes the origins of the term “robot,” drawn from the word “robota” for forced labor or servitude in Old Church Slavonic. The exhibit transitions quickly to more recent history, such as the debut of Atari’s table-tennis video game Pong in 1972, which people can play at MOHAI.

Children will especially enjoy the interactive exhibits. These include a piano which improves your voice and Tower of Hanoi, where you must build a tower of blocks sequentially. A face-analyzing machine identified this reporter as being between 25 and 32 years old.

Age guessing machine
The exhibit has an age-guessing device. (Geekwire Photo / Charlotte Schubert)

This exhibit explores visual illusions only human eyes can see, as well as visual tasks computers are better at. The exhibit helps us see how different software functions, with touch-boards that make binary choices about what dessert to choose.

Newquist’s definition of artificial intelligence is expansive. In a talk before the tour he described AI as “the attempt by humans to create machines that think like humans.”

Newquist has seen the field explode since “AI winter” in the 1990s, when a lot of early companies folded. These past decades are covered in poster form and easily accessible text.

Dessert decision tree
Desert decision tree on display. To make a decision, people can turn the knob on the tree. (GeekWire Photo / Charlotte Schubert)

The exhibit touches on ethical elements of AI, for instance noting science fiction writer Isaac Asimov’s “three laws of robotics,” which include the edict “a robot may not injure a human being.”

Future exhibits might further explore what to fear in an era where we began our journey with the hope of letting go of more mundane tasks. free.

That dream’s earlier stages are explored in the exhibit, which was first shown before the pandemic at the Orlando Science Center. This exhibit, which will stay in Seattle through Jan. 8, will feature workshops and lectures about AI, bias and inequity. The museum also will offer a screening of “Blade Runner: The Final Cut.”

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