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“I have to give in to [Bina48] … and decide that we can collaborate, and we have the possibility to be friends and make something between us like any two people might. And so in that sense, we’re definitely setting up a space for collaboration and bringing something into being by being in the same space and time and trying to communicate.”
Stephanie Dinkins, Artist, in Collective Wisdom
Since 2014, artist Stephanie Dinkins has been recording her interactions with Bina48, an advanced social robot in the form of a plastic bust with the features of an African-American woman. Their conversations have revolved around notions of intelligence, emotions, family, faith, and race; at times infused with humor, other times with feelings of frustration and nonsense. Through this process, Dinkins has been exploring the forms a human-machine relationship could take while examining the encoding of sociocultural perspectives and biases in this artificial system. Although the robot is based on the looks and memory of Bina, an African-American woman partner of millionaire Martine Rothblatt who purchased the robot in 2010, the people who programmed it are primarily white men from Hanson Robotics. In this context, Dinkins questions if and how Bina48 could take the identity of a black woman by using her conversations both as a test and as a form to re-encode other histories into the robot. These dialogues are part of the artist’s mission to include people of color in the making of artificial intelligence systems. With that in mind, she is currently working on the creation of a chatbot encoded with the history and memories of three women in her family, and co-creating bots with communities of color to make them developers of technologies instead of subjects.