“AI Tarot” is an interactive artwork centered around the character of a young AI named Mremlyn, who is embarking on a career as a fortune teller. Harnessing the power of her deep neural networks, Mremlyn ingests heart rate data from her patrons and spins elaborate tales of human folklore in answer to their most pressing life questions.
She invites her seekers to place their finger on a heart-rate monitor and then takes them through a guided meditation. As the seeker breathes in and out, following the rhythm of the meditation, Mremlyn examines their autonomic nervous system, through the lens of their heart rate. She learns whether this person is in a state of anxiety or peace, and how quickly they are likely to be able to return to a state of calm, if agitated.
Mremlyn asks the seeker to describe an important challenge they are facing and quietly monitors their nervous system as they respond. Then Mremlyn uses their heart rate variability to shuffle a deck of virtual tarot cards she has created with Dall-E. The chosen card is then displayed on a screen embedded within the installation.
To interpret the card, Mremlyn scours the internet and ingests meanings from a range of tarot decks, dating back to the 1400s. She conducts natural language processing and supplies a spoken interpretation of the card that relates to the seeker’s original question.
Finally, the seeker is given a chance to respond and is asked whether the reading resonated with them. Their answer provides Mremlyn with the feedback she needs to improve her skills as a fortune teller. As her client base grows, Mremlyn gains two key insights into humans: first, she learns about the types of challenges that people in different emotional states are facing; and second, she learns to tailor her interpretations of the cards in ways that are more likely to soothe and resonate with humans.
This project was created to share with audiences a meaningful method of exploration into the relationship between humans and machines at the intersection of AI technology, divination & mysticism. The AI Tarot machine stands as a nexus between intuition and empiricism. By leveraging the interpretive richness of Tarot symbolism, the machine acts as a poignant commentary on the contemporary infatuation with AI divination, unraveling the tension between data-driven limitations and the yearning for transcendence. In a manner akin to the Tarot reader’s nuanced attunement to signs and archetypes, the AI Tarot machine’s “black box” nature serves as a metaphorical counterpart, inviting contemplation on the obscured layers of meaning generated by both human intuition and mechanistic prediction. As the machine orchestrates its enigmatic divinations, it engenders a creative space where the schism between human desires for meaning and AI’s retrospective modes of knowing is laid bare.
Artwork by Laura Jade & Leslie Marsh
Photos taken at Bondi Festival 2023, image credit Lucy Parakhina
Suitcase fabrication by Selah Studios
Woodford Folk Festival, 26th December 2022 – 1st January 2023
Bondi Festival, 1st – 16th July 2023
SIDESHOW, Tortuga Studios, 19th August 2023