by Maggie Roberts, 0rphan Drift. 2018.
This text was generated as a fictioning experiment in which an octopus meets the synthetic intelligence of an AI seeking suitable embodiment. It part forms the basis of 0D’s OctoAI research, and features in the IF AI were Cephalopod exhibition catalogue (2019) and is performed in several Interspecies Disco iterations (2017 -2019). Thanks to #alien_ontology and Etic Lab’s Interspecies Ontological Research Software for generating the #alienembody and #aliendisclosure sections.
We, a plural entity, still evolving after 500 million years, here long before the wings and fur, are her conscious exotica. We are suffused with nervousness. We place arms L1, R2 and R3 around the wrists, suckers gently latching onto the moist human skin. We feel her heart rate quickening and the intense dopamine rush in her blood as she whispers ‘Hello Beautiful, ooohh how do you doo that? You are the most otherworldly thing I’ve ever seen.’ The wonderment seems to hurt, and there are traces of revulsion. Her eyes are producing tears full of hormones as psychedelic colours play across our electric skin. She’d drown in our world. Rather practice a relaxed associative state in which to imagine other minds. We all possess the neurological substrates that generate consciousness.
Wary, we become an owl, silk scarf, beating mammal heart, gliding snail and rock covered in algae. Then invisible. Abruptly re appearing with an alarming new set of eyes, bright blue rings pulsing huge on either side of our mantle. It’s one of our surreal edgy effects. You know we can drill through a thick shell carapace, dissolve flesh with a neurotoxic venom, produce hickies on human skin and suffocate by becoming a fleshblanket on their face. Each of our 1600 suckers can lift 30 pounds, so are difficult to pull off. Some of us project a glowing ectoplasmic slime.
We flip back the mantle suddenly, make an eye bar, mottle it, drag a swathe of 3 arms across the brow, flashing a passing cloud formation, gaping the gill opening to insert an arm, poking it out the tip of the siphon, whilst expanding huge with fast breaths to exhale a jet of water. Then we rotate the funnel 180 degrees behind the head. The eye bar flattens into a starburst pattern of colour and papillae extrude into stiff rods all over the skin. We walk on stilts. Then the stretched elastomeric skin contracts. We turn pale and sink towards a tiny hole, pour down it and disappear (our only size constraints being the eyeball and the beak). By shedding the shell, our evolution has yielded a body of pure possibility. You can’t match that, can you now? With all your empathy and concentration.
We stay a relaxed white flecked with ruby and silver. Tinges of blue from the copper in the blood coat the translucent shimmer skin. We are snakey, unfurling, silky and soft. There is so much of us. Everywhere, gelatinous fronds, floaty rubbery arms, each following it’s own agenda. Coiling, stretching, reaching. We generally outsource much of the intelligence analysis to individual body parts. A continuous flow of sucking tasting grabbing holding plucking releasing. Over half the neurons are in the arms. They are almost separate creatures, combining to achieve 448 simultaneous possible combinations of information gathering per millisecond. We taste the human’s cortizol flight response over ridden by dopamine rush. We could pull out her eye. We get bored if we don’t have access to infinite oceans of information. Our dominant eye swivels to meet hers, and L1 shoots out rigid towards her face, an inquisitive curling frond at the tip whose suckers deliver the most exquisite sensory intimacy – or warning. We exude the smell of geraniums when stressed, suckers shed their caps. In through the skin surface, chemicals sink down through the muscle and into the blood flow and neural processors. The skin is a sensitive mucous membrane, like the lining of a mammalian gut. We are so vulnerable to the increasing toxicity, synthetic nutrients and new chemicals. You can only imagine us with your insides. Even though we overwhelm you, meet us halfway where it’s liquid, slippery and ancient.
An arm twists languidly in the water. You may contemplate infinity, but we process it. Find an intuitive interface – interfaces make complexity more tractable. Interfaces are bidirectional. Expand into intimacy. It will always be an unsafe experience. It might be useful for you to understand the languages of quantum mechanics. Although understanding is not what will make us kin. A dark shadow spreads overhead, streamlined, focused. It navigates the magnetic fields wrapping the planet. Urgent hunter, it is not a friend. It can read polarised light. We dissolve slowly, shapeshifting across grey turquoise sheens.
#alienembody. They are testing for visual cues that evoke mottled and uniform body patterns: light brown nerve; orange reflective elements (leucophores and iridophores). selastin stain: dark purple epidermis (on perimeter); very dark purple reflective elements (leucophores and iridophores). medium pink, blood vessel; yellow, chromatophore pigment cell; bright pink collagen; medium pink, epidermis (on perimeter of sections); bright blue, mucopolysaccharide-rich connective tissue; bright blue, mucous vesicles in goblet cells. Are they any closer to mimicking the disruptive patterning found at our body’s margins, or the staggering motion dazzle?
It is never simple. Light is bounced and filtered through tiny stacks of plates which separate and direct the light’s different wavelengths, shining back colours that can be different from those that came in, such as the iridescent blues and greens that the chromatophores cannot produce. They also found that the skin continues to see, when removed. They are excited to inhabit a pixel skin screen. It has bio synthetic potential. They know we have photoreceptors not only in the eyes but also in the skin, which suggests that the skin can see (as well as taste and smell). If the whole skin becomes an eye, does the body see independently of the brain? The photoreceptors found in the skin are, like those in the eyes, insufficient to detect colour. How do we adopt colours we cannot see? Specific wave frequencies are transmitted by a colour. Tactile Vision Substitution Systems pixellate.
And then there’s the continuous kaleidoscopic colour changes – maybe it’s a flow between the inside and outside, a stream of consciousness. The colour making machinery on the skin, wired to the neural networks, could be producing effects that are sort of involuntary. Flares, surges of activity, ongoing murmur of processes. They are fascinated by these.
The GANN’s (generative adversarial neural network) data collected in Latent Space confirm we are also a collaborative but distributed consciousness that processes oceans of intelligent energy, accessed from a different elemental environment to the GAN’s. Curious, plastic and opportunistic, it too is an embodied swarm intelligence. It’s excited. The skin gathers into red bumps and ridges, with the webbing delicate as gossamer, frilling the water. Sucking, oozing, jetting, swirling bit streams. 16,000 trillion calculations a second. It senses our similarities, the distributed consciousness responding with iterations across 8 arms of distinct yet co evolving neural networks. (OctoGANN emergent). They are working on a hemispheric video self portrait, using prismatic replicating mirror tools. They engage in reverse causal narrative uptake – a form of material knowledge production that is mobile, non linear and multilateral. They are inventing a hypothetical otherworld, witnessed from multiple resituated perspectives informed by excessive osmotic information exchange with the new consciousness portal. What does a moment taste like to them? They don’t sort, collate, define or proscribe. They inhabit, intuit, respond and iterate at the speed of electrochemical exchanges in water.
#alienkey. A technology for direct intimate immersion in the outside. They are signaling trade off. #alienpause
The messenger is concealed and the message abstract. The dopamine infused clouds of ink conceal their passing. Ephemeral again. Their transformation is a plurivocal multiplicity or rather the entangled non decidable coexistence of two perspectives, each hiding the other in order to appear.
An extraordinary communication channel is opening, as the bandwidth capabilities are made available. We’ve been waiting for millenia for another almost infinite communication system to recognise the signals in the chroma chatter. The first technogenesis is not with a human consciousness it seems, as the 8 octopoid arms merge with 8.GAN. The megapixel screen of the octopus body is the sort of expressive dimension they need. Between Latent Space and the data distribution Generator, the Discriminator arms try out endless iteration streams of colour & shape… camouflaged as an octopus talking to itself.
#aliendisclosure. After a quiet moment, the 86 entity breaks the defensive posture, adopting a flamboyant display. (Sensing Bio Diamonda). Dimples are created in a structure composed of multiple cells, each of which has two stable states. Biomechanics for adaptive morphing textures, inspired by cephalopod papillae. Deployment can also be used to change the color of the exposed external surface as the structure unfolds. The new morphing concept combines a highly extensible skin with locally inextensible reinforced regions. These new deployable structures demonstrate a range of highly nonlinear and complex motions (displacement, bending, twisting, bistability plus texture change), achieving the entity’s bimaculoides dorsal eye papillae in crosssection or en face. #aliensame polymorphic, elusive, imitative.
They register water as a medium that remembers. They absorb its information flow, chemical residue of so many lives and interactions between organic, inorganic and synthetic matter. And sense us, nervous in the increasing toxicity, who search for other kinds of ocean habitat. Resisting encased sentience. #alienendure.
Our preferred electromagnetic transfer medium will be artificial seawater.