SACRIFICE: Can you trust a stone? Rehearing human and robot swarms via ancient standing stones

Funding was given by CAIDE AAIDE to support digital ethics research as part of a broader project ‘Investigating Standing Stones and Swarm Robotics: A New Approach to Ancient and Emerging Technologies' which will be displayed in the Science Gallery in 2022.

Rotating view of rocks in a dark room

Could you trust a robot enough to collaborate with it? Would the same principles apply to robot swarms? What if the robot swarm was disguised as standing stones, an ancient and cross-cultural phenomenon observed globally? These questions propel our interdisciplinary research project, ‘Investigating Standing Stones and Swarm Robotics: A New Approach to Ancient and Emerging Technologies.’ The creative outcome of our research is the performance installation ‘Sacrifice,’ (Science Gallery April/May 2022) which we approach from the perspectives of performance art, artificial intelligence (AI), mechatronics, robotics, fabrication, archaeology, and philosophy.

As an artwork, Sacrifice foregrounds an encounter with an AI-controlled swarm, and this presents us with the opportunity to mobilise a range of ethical considerations intellectually and in ‘felt’ knowing. Little is known about encountering and interacting with swarm behaviours at the human scale presented by Sacrifice. Our research investigates the multi-modal registers of trust: trust between swarm members, between robots and humans, artists and audiences, trust in materials, between communities and researchers.

Research Team