New York

Ian Cheng, Bag of Beliefs (BOB), 2018, eighteen monitors, computer hardware, artificial-life-form software. Installation view.

Ian Cheng

Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

There seems to be a long, tongue-in-cheek tradition of giving machines with artificial intelligence monosyllabic names that hover somewhere between the casual sobriquets of garden-party guests and the vanilla acronyms of corporate lingo. Consider HAL 9000, the murderous AI in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Or Tay, Microsoft’s ill-fated chatbot. Playing along, perhaps, Ian Cheng has dubbed his latest simulation Bag of Beliefs (BOB), 2018. A digital-age gargoyle with a catfish-like head and a spindly, segmented body textured like red coral, BOB was set loose in a beige-walled virtual vivarium, left to writhe around and explore its surroundings across a three-by-six-panel grid of screens.

In the field of AI, researchers sometimes focus their efforts on “single-agent systems.” That term is just a fancy descriptor for worlds divvied into two basic elements: a lone critter of some kind, and the

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