At Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), Artificial Intelligence: Your Mind & The Machine currently resides in the special exhibit hall. It’s a quiet, secluded corner among MOHAI’s bustling attractions. An array of brain teasers, touch screens, sci-fi movie posters, and robot models line the room’s edges, while interactive puzzles and pillars of text fill the center. Created by The Relayer Group, this traveling exhibit explores the relationship between the human mind and computers, charting the development of artificial intelligence from its ancient roots. It’s a fun, worthwhile exhibit for both kids and adults interested in learning more about A.I., but it dulls in comparison to MOHAI’s other offerings.
The exhibit hall doors open to an olive green wall with a few lines of white serif text: what is the difference between a human mind and a computer? The exhibit quickly answers this question, leading visitors through optical illusions that perplex our eyes but go unnoticed by computers. Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s paintings of fish and fruit, arranged to look like portrait heads, hang on the wall. An A.I. would simply recognize these as fish and fruit rather than the portrait heads humans recognize. A Tower of Hanoi puzzle sits below, comprised of stacked rings that must be placed in ascending order without putting bigger rings on top of smaller ones. A program could solve it in seconds, but it might take you and a friend a bit of extra effort. As Artificial Intelligence explains, conversation around A.I. swirls with sensationalist claims that computers will render human minds obsolete. These first few displays clarify that the human brain and A.I. each have strengths and weaknesses; A.I. is not a looming threat to civilization, but a tool we use to solve problems. The rest of the exhibit builds off this foundation to further explain the relationship between “your mind and the machine,” getting into how A.I. functions, its heights and limitations, its representations in pop culture, and its history. There are touchscreen games, translators, and hands-on activities as the exhibit continues to tell the story of artificial intelligence.