Lost in computation

Designer | Artist Jonas Eltes
Year 2017

Lost in Computation is a multilingual conversation between two Chatbot AIs trained in Swedish and Italian, translated through Google Translate, exploring how the multiple layers of computation in today’s digital landscape distorts our communication.

The project is the result of FABRICA’s initiative to celebrate 21st February (today) – UNESCO dedicated celebration of the International Mother Language Day and it was created in 3 days. The overall objective of the Day is to contribute to promoting Global Citizenship education. As a melting pot of nationalities and cultures, FABRICA wanted to give their own contribution to this year’s celebrations by inviting their grantholders to create projects to celebrate the occasion.

The installation consists of the two bots that are at the highest level two chatbots communicating with each other through the Cleverbot API for conversation and Google Translate for translation to parse the other machine’s reply into the corresponding language. At the core are two raspberry pi 3s communicating through a Node.js server and WebSockets. As Jonas wanted the conversation to reflect the nature of how his own conversations tend to start with Italians while at his residency at FABRICA (being originally from Sweden), he manually tells the Swedish-speaking computer to start the conversation with a “Hej” (“Hello”). The string is then posted to and translated through the Google Translate API from Swedish to Italian (as well as Swedish to English for the sake of explanation) and fed as an input to the second, Italian-speaking, computer’s conversation through the Cleverbot API. The return from the Cleverbot API is then sent back from the Italian computer to Google Translate for translation and forwarded to the Swedish-speaking computer which takes it as an input to the Swedish’s computer’s conversation through the Cleverbot API. And keeps looping.