9/30/19 Anna Ridler Tulips

Images from Anna Ridler’s digital tulip project are displayed in front of Honors Hall. The tulips grow based on the value of Bitcoin.

Imagine a conference 30 years from now discussing life and technology. Where would people be? What would they be talking about? Would robots be taking over the planet?

The Purdue 2050: Conference of the Future was organized by Purdue’s Discovery Park and created as if it was set in the future. Participants were able to listen to speakers and try different technologies in exhibits that would address future challenges.

The conference is part of the Ideas Festival, which is the highlight of Purdue’s Giant Leaps Sesquicentennial Campaign celebrating Purdue’s 150th anniversary. The events feature prominent speakers conversing about opportunities and issues that the world faces.

The event took place at Honors Hall, in the Honors College and Residences — North, on Thursday and Friday. The theme was creating a sustainable and technology-driven world that accepted new, innovative ideas.

The event featured interactive learning technologies like convolutional neural networks, an algorithm that analyzes visual imagery, which was used to study emotion recognition during the event.

Faces of participants who chose to sit in designated areas of the room were recorded, and their emotions were analyzed. Screenshots were displayed between sessions to show the collected data.

There were also other exhibits, such as a “Digital Borneo: Climb to the top of the Rainforest in Borneo.” Participants were immersed in the sounds of an ancient forest in Borneo, compiled by scientists at the Discovery Park Center for Global Soundscapes.

The use of technology was a large focus of the event. Artist and researcher Anna Ridler from London spoke about her self-generated data sets to create unique narratives. She displayed one of her pieces that featured tulips as a video mosaic.

But those weren’t just normal tulips. The tulips grow based on the rise and fall of Bitcoin values, Ridler said. Even though she works with artificial intelligence, she said, “It can copy and suggest, but ultimately, the piece of art starts and ends with me.” She also said she believes that AI is still very much driven by people and their opinions.

Speakers had a wide range of topics, and the audience was comprised of people from all different ages and backgrounds. Jan-Anders Mansson, a distinguished professor of engineering, played both roles during the conference.

“I think we had a selection of very good speakers, speakers with good history and by that also a good view of the future,” Mansson said, “So, it’s been a highlight for me to participate in this.”

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