Do AIs Dream of Climate Chaos

Iris Qu 曲晓宇

Do AIs Dream of Climate Chaos is a screen-based installation of an artificial intelligence agent processing environmental chaos.

Over the past few decades, the tech industry has overindexed on the existential threat of artificial intelligence while overlooking the doomsday scenarios backed by climate science. But what happens if Artificial General Intelligence leaps into “singularity”? Although most AIs manifest as software machine learning algorithms, they depend on an ubiquitous hardware infrastructure requiring constant human maintenance and temperature control. Given sufficient data, a self-aware AI agent might very likely recognize the necessity of radical change to prevent its hardware failure. 

Do AIs Dream of Climate Chaos speculates a future in which an artificial intelligence agent spends all its computing resources processing climate chaos. For a few days, the agent relentlessly collects climate-related information from the internet. Based on its accumulated knowledge, the AI then attempts to compute a future where humans, ecosystems, and machines live in harmony. The agent’s thought process manifests as moving images and texts on a screen-based installation for this exhibition. 

Do AIs Dream of Climate Chaos is ultimately about what humans see through the eyes of a machine. We lack the adequate language to communicate the scale and complexity of the climate crisis to act as a people. Machine learning is extremely good at visualizing the Anthropocene, as it shows us what we chose to record and amplify as a collective. We share a deep-rooted optimism with this speculative AI in our instinct to understand and survive climate chaos. The embodiment of climate crisis in a single AI agent might help us tell a better story on our collective future.


AI processing climate concepts.

Speculative terrain.

AI processing climate concepts.

Speculative terrain.

Iris Qu 曲晓宇 (China, 1993)  is a computer programmer, technologist, and artist based in Brooklyn, NY. She works at the intersection of software engineering and new media art, and uses her work to examine the poetic, political, and speculative aspects of technology. Currently, she’s working on a project at Google research to help people pursue their long-term interests.

With code as her primary medium, she hopes to engage her audience in speculating alternative futures. Do AIs Dream of Climate Chaos is an opportunity to reflect on her relationship with the climate, process environmental grief, and speculate change.

(photo: Xinyu Li)


Project Credits

Sound design
Niles Fromm

I’d like to thank Katherine Crowson, the original author of the VQGan+CLIP method that I used to generate images for this project.