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  • Dror Margalit

Rebuilding Babel

Made by Mary Mark, Karina Chew, and Dror Margalit

Despite their potential to bring us closer together, “the algorithms” have become a source of our radical polarization and isolation. This project is our quest to counteract this trajectory, as it explores a three-way relationship between two humans and an algorithm.

In 2022, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt wrote an Atlantic article about the dire state of social media. In the article, he refers to the biblical destruction of the Tower of Babel, in which God confused people’s languages as a punishment for their attempt to reach the heavens. Similarly, social media and algorithms promised to unite the world, but instead, made us ”disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth”. So much of our communication today is broken with algorithms responsible for polarization and the spread of misinformation. We wanted to create an interactive artwork that does the opposite: one that embraces the algorithms in building relationships, one that helps us rebuild the Tower of Babel.

Rebuilding Babel is an interactive piece that embraces the algorithms' potential to mediate cultural and language boundaries. Two participants engage in a conversation in their native languages through a pair of headsets, and their speech will be augmented by an algorithm in real-time to meet each other’s cultural and personal realities.

Before the conversation, the two participants will take a short survey to describe themselves. Based on this survey, the algorithm will moderate the conversation, making it customized for each participant based on their survey answers. While the two people are conversing, other viewers who are not directly involved will be able to see the conversation between the two people and an algorithm unfold on a screen (only with consent), where the human and algorithm-augmented messages will be shown side-by-side. We hope this piece will shed light on the power and pitfalls of generative AI and make people more aware of its capabilities.


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