“The Exhaustive, Inexhaustible Philosopher” presented by Johnson

  • ©ISEA2016: 22nd International Symposium on Electronic Art, Colin Johnson, The Exhaustive, Inexhaustible Philosopher
  • An example of the robot used in the work


Session Title:

  • Robots

Presentation Title:

  • The Exhaustive, Inexhaustible Philosopher




  • Abstract
    This talk describes the ideas behind, and the practical realization of, the artwork The Inexhaustible, Exhaustive Philosopher.

    Overview Description
    The Exhaustive, Inexhaustible Philosopher is an installation work for a gallery or other public space. It consists of a large number of toy robots that speak cod philosophical statements gleaned from internet searches for certain linguistic patterns based on the pattern “I _ therefore I __”.

    Thematic Statement
    The Artist believes that with the rise of the Internet, the Shakespeherian–Monkey singularity has finally come upon us, and that all valuable Profound Philosophical Statements have already been made by users of the Interwebs. Thanks to the munificence of Google™, Bing, Ask™ Jee™ves™ (and in loving memory of Magell™an, InfoS™eek, Sna™p and that crowd) He believes that all that is required to realize the remaining works of philosophy are a large number of toy robots appropriately modified with Arduino boards and the Latest speech-synthesis technology.

    Practical Realisation
    The installation consists of a large number (around 20-30) toy walking robots of the kind shown in the figure (this particular model is about 30cm high). They move around a space via a random walk – ideally a site-specific location would be found for them, such as on a little balcony, or they could be placed within a pen in a standard gallery space. They have been adapted via the use of the Arduino board and a speech synthesizer to speak texts that have been derived from a large-scaleGoogle text search for the phrase-template “I _ therefore I ”, with the exception of phrases that being “I think” or which end with “I am”. Every few minutes each robot begins a vocalization consisting of a large number of phrases which either begin or end with the same phrase; for example, if the search term was “eat” some sample spoken output would be:

    I eat therefore I think.
    I eat therefore I think.
    I eat therefore I think.
    I eat, therefore I live!
    I eat Therefore I Ham.
    I eat therefore I think. I
    I eat therefore I think.
    I eat therefore I cook.
    I eat, therefore I care.
    I eat, therefore I cook
    I eat therefore we are.
    I eat therefore I run
    I eat therefore I run
    I Eat Therefore I Poop
    I eat therefore I SPAM
    I Eat Therefore I Cook.com
    I eat, therefore I pout

    One robot, bearing a badge with the words “I am René Descartes” just repeats “I think therefore I am” constantly. Approximately every hour a plotter (situated behind the robots) holding a piece of chalk writes on to a chalkboard one of the statements, randomly chosen. At the end of the hour it exchanges its chalk for an eraser, and deletes the statement.