Audrey Kim’s dog Murphy uses a combination of head nods and 10 buttons on the ground to communicate, she says, and has a habit of making friends with ravens. She taught him to use the buttons because she believes consciousness is a spectrum and intelligence is mysterious. Those tenets also led her to become curator of the Misalignment Museum, a temporary exhibition about the future of artificial intelligence that opens today in San Francisco, ground zero for recent excitement about generative AI and chatbots like OpenAI’s ChatGPT.
The Misalignment Museum imagines a future in which AI starts to take the route mapped out in countless science fiction films—becoming self aware and setting about killing off humanity. Fortunately, in Kim’s vision the algorithms self-correct and stop short of killing all people. Her museum, packed with artistic allegories about AI and art made with AI assistance, is presented as a memorial of humankind’s future near-miss with extinction.
“It's weird, because it’s such a terrifying topic, but it makes me happy people are interested,” Kim says from a coffee shop across the street. As we talk, we watch passersby peer into the gallery space—fittingly located eight blocks from the offices of OpenAI—that has a prominent “Sorry for killing most of humanity” sign along one wall.
The project started five months ago, shortly before ChatGPT sparked expectation in the tech industry and beyond that we are on the cusp of a wave of AI disruption and somehow closer to the nebulous concept of artificial general intelligence, or AGI. There’s no consensus about the definition of AGI, but the museum calls it the ability to understand or learn any intellectual task that a human can.
Kim says the museum is meant to raise conversations about the destabilizing implications of supposedly intelligent technology. The collection is split across two floors, with more optimistic visions of our AI-infused upstairs, and dystopian ones on the lower level.
Upstairs there’s piano music composed with bacteria, an interactive play on Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” from the Sistine Chapel, and soon an installation that uses computer vision from Google to describe people and objects that appear in front of a camera.
Downstairs is art from Matrix: Resurrections (a set designer on the movie, Barbara Munch Cameron, helped plan the museum’s layout), a never-ending AI-generated conversation between Slavoj Žižek and Werner Herzog, and a robotic arm holding a pen that writes notes from the perspective of an AI that views humans as a threat.
“This is the gates-to-hell selfie spot,” Kim says, pointing out a quote from Dante above the entrance to the lower section of the museum: “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” The museum is also home to a deepfake of Arnold Schwarzenegger speaking from a script generated by ChatGPT, a statue of two people embracing made from 15,000 paper clips that’s meant to be an allegory about AI safety, and robots flown in from Vienna made from Spam tins with little arms that type.