Es Devlin UK Pavilion Concept Sketch
Es Devlin UK Pavilion Concept Sketch Image Credit: Supplied
UK Pavilion Choral Space
UK Pavilion Choral Space Image Credit: Supplied

Let’s begin with a factoid: over 10 per cent of Expo 2020 visitors in Dubai have been to the United Kingdom Pavilion. Considering that the façade is magnificent and beautifully laid out that is hardly a surprise. However, what caught our attention was the Artificial Intelligence Poem Generator where visitors can contribute words which the system crafts into poetry that is beamed into space. Sounds far-fetched and with our cynical hats on, a bit of a marketing gimmick – it’s anything but.

Visitors to the pavilion can contribute a word, which through AI is weaved into a poem that is transmitted into space. The idea is to essentially project a message that is welcoming and uses our diversity to root for global harmony and unity. As well as transmit our harmony and acceptance of differing cultures.

The AI poem thought stems from renowned physicist Stephen Hawking’s assertion of diversity in what messages we might want to project for extra-terrestrial beings, should they be listening or seeking other forms of life in the universe.

The AI poem generator at the UK pavilion
The AI poem generator at the UK pavilion Image Credit: Supplied

The level of attention to detail boggles the mind. For instance, the collective message that creates the poem was trained on 15,000 poems, from over 100 British poets. Following donations to the pavilion have already produced 51,450 lines of poetry.

We had a chat with Laura Faulkner, UK Commissioner General & Director at Expo 2020 Dubai to dig deeper.

“When we were looking for a designer for the UK Pavilion, we asked for a building that embodies our theme statement, Innovating for a Shared Future. In doing so, the winning designer picked on two or three strengths of the UK, including our role in the betterment of AI as a force for good for the world, and the role that the UK has played in that, past present and future. “Not only do you experience the UK’s role in AI throughout our wider content across the building and our content and events programme, but through the collective message we are inviting the world be a part of the pavilion and its legacy. “Our broader message is that the UK is reimagining its relationship with the world and we are building new and sustained partnerships in order to innovate for a shared future,” Faulkner said.

We also asked the idea behind this approach and Laura said that the initial objective was for visitors to see things differently – see the UK not just through expected content but to present something unfamiliar. “At its heart this is not just about broadcasting what the UK is good at, but inviting all nations and visitors to be a part of what we are doing. This is taking us back to Professor Stephen Hawking’s original intention, which is a message of unity and bringing everyone together in one common language and delivering through something the UK is very proud of – poetry,” she added.

The thought is to create something meaningful from broader public contribution.