AI Index: A Machine Room Tour

On 27 May, we will launch AI Index, the first collection of NFTs based on the [aside] protocol in collaboration with Obvious and Ivona Tau. This drop will have the following feature: all purchased NFTs will be locked at mint time and will be unlocked according to the state of a sentiment gauge which estimates people’s feelings towards AI.

[aside] introduction

Before delving deeper into the specifics of this drop, let's recall that [aside] is a protocol that enables the immobilization of any NFT on the Ethereum blockchain and conditions its release to external phenomena, whether natural (weather, earthquake, storm), astral (solar eruption, planetary transit), economic (inflation, deflation), financial (stock market), demographic, or social. Once locked, these NFTs remain non-transferable for a dedicated period of time or until a specific real-world event happens, therefore restricting the transferability of the artwork to events in the outside world.

AI Index

When we met Ivona Tau and Obvious in October 2023 to present [aside], their idea was immediately as follows: 'making the unlocking of locked NFTs conditional on people's sentiments over AI'.

Evaluating public sentiment is not an easy task; in fact, it is often deemed impossible in practice due to the lack of a straightforward method. Even more challenging is capturing people's sentiments about AI and then utilizing it on-chain on Ethereum L1. However, being in the field of artistic experimentation, we embraced this challenge and commenced research, experimenting with various APIs to find the optimal solution. After numerous iterations, we opted for an X-based sentiment gauge that monitors various AI-related hashtags to estimate public sentiment towards AI.

This gauge oscillates based on a calculation of the ratio between positive and negative hashtags related to AI posted on X over the last 7 days. This ratio, calculated on a sliding window, is updated hourly and visible here.

This sentiment gauge retrieves the number of tweets over the last 7 days that either promote AI (#AIForGood, #AIOptimism…) or express concerns about AI (#AIConcerns, #AIThreat…). Once these hashtags have been retrieved, a ratio is computed from this data, producing a score between 0 and 100; score which serves for the estimation of public sentiment toward AI. 0 symbolizes overwhelmingly negative sentiments, whereas 100 signifies profound enthusiasm towards AI.

Over the course of a few months, we monitored the evolution of this sentimental gauge—by selecting hashtags based on the sentiment of the posts in which they are used (positive or negative) and their frequency in the AI debate—and refined its endpoints. After observing responses that made sense, such as a 30-point variation following OpenAI's announcement of the launch of Sora, we decided to complete its implementation.

Unlocking mechanisms

Obvious and Ivona Tau will create 100 unique NFTs distributed in groups of 10 across the 10 intervals of the gauge. The mechanism for releasing the NFTs is extremely simple to understand:

“As soon as the gauge reaches one of these intervals, the associated 10 unique NFTs will automatically be unlocked. Forever. “

For example, if the gauge reaches a score of 37, then the 10 NFTs in the interval [30,40] will be unlocked. Owners will thus be able to do with them as they wish, sell or transfer them like any other NFT. This process is fully automated end-to-end, and the user will have absolutely nothing to do: Scripts will run every hour to check for the evolution of the AI gauge and fire the transactions needed to unlock the proper NFTs.

And yes, we also cover the fees associated with these transactions!

AI Index’s aesthetic

To bridge the gap between sentiment and anticipation of the future, Obvious and Ivona Tau drew inspiration from the covers of prominent magazines such as Vogue, The Economist, and TIME, creating covers produced by their AIs that depicted a spectrum of our human relationships with AI in various possible futures.

Aesthetically, each segment of the series [0,10][10,20][20,30][30,40][40,50][50,60][60,70][70,80][80,90][90,100] comprises 10 unique artworks unified by a consistent emotional tone, akin to the timbres of an orchestra. Ranging from optimistic scenarios where AI enriches our lives to dystopian visions of control society.

Security mechanisms

In case an issue happens, two security mechanisms have been implemented.

1/ Maximum time-lock duration

In case you don't trust us, a security timelock has also been implemented so that all NFTs will automatically unlock after 3 years. This ensures that even in unforeseen circumstances, such as our demise, you'll still be able to release and transfer your NFT at your discretion. Additionally, if there are any batches of NFTs located in one or many of the 10 intervals that have not yet been reached within the next 3 years, they will be unlocked after 3 years from the deployment date of the smart contract.

2/ The emergency button

Due to the uncertainty of X's availability in the next 3 years, an emergency unlock feature is integrated into the drop contract. This mechanism mandates a multi-signature process utilizing a Gnosis multi-sig wallet, necessitating the signature of at least two out of three keys held by Obvious, Ivona Tau, and Distributed Gallery. It serves as a fail-safe to initiate the release of all associated NFTs in the event of any API-related issues. These issues may include service downtime, the identification of critical software bugs, the inadvertent or malicious removal of API access credentials. 

The use of Chainlink Functions

If all of this seems so simple, it's because [aside] relies on Chainlink Functions.

Chainlink Functions offers a a serverless developer platform for fetching data from any API and running custom compute using Chainlink’s highly secure and reliable network. . This allows us to seamlessly connect our [aside] smart contract to any API, leveraging Chainlink’s Decentralized Oracle Network (DON) without the need to manage the intricacies of building a custom connectivity solution.

Each [aside] ERC721 token inherits Chainlink's FunctionsClient contract, enabling us to make calls to the decentralized oracle network (DON) to retrieve data from the X API.

Each time a batch of tokens is requested to be unlocked, our smart contract calls the Chainlink Functions router, requesting the execution of a specific JavaScript code to retrieve X API data. This contract then forwards our request to the DON, where each node executes the requested JavaScript, the DON reaches consensus using OCR, and relays the result to our [aside] smart contract.

If the data returned matches the sentiment gauge interval associated with the tokens, they are unlocked forever. Otherwise, the function reverts and nothing happens.

We can picture this process like this:


The situation we are experiencing today with the development of AI is not new in itself, as it merely repeats the age-old question: How to question technology?

In her work published in 1990 and titled "The Machinery Question and the Making of Political Economy" the historian Maxine Louise Berg explored how the introduction of new technology sparked debate and social upheaval in early nineteenth-century Britain. As she put it about the Industrial Revolution:

"There was excitement and fear at this unknown force which swept relentlessly onward, casting the old society in its wake."

Perhaps we find ourselves in a somewhat similar situation in the age of AI where fears and excitements surround the new breakthrough in the ongoing general automation process.

Artworks of Obvious and Ivona Tau strive to describe the palette of possibilities that await us, from the creepy prospect of a controlled society to the cyberneticians' gung-ho enthusiasm. The aesthetic feeling that arises from the perception of their works is our only gateway to these futures, because sentiment, and aesthetic sentiment in particular, is what opens us to the world, what opens up the horizon. Indeed, feelings have a 'noetic' function, as they possess a cognitive aspect that aids our understanding of the world as it is or as it could be. Sentiments are on the side of knowledge.

By conditioning the unlock of Obvious's and Ivona's artworks to a sentimental gauge, we hope to have given their works an added depth, animating them with an uncontrollable and unpredictable extrasubjective force that is collective sentiment towards AI. These artworks, trapped within the protocol, are thus in direct resonance with the sentiments of the multitude, which oppose them a resistance. The beauty of this resistance lies in the fact that, at the very heart of the work, it aims to adjust as closely as possible the subject and the object of the work. Perhaps it is through the detour of protocol art that we remind ourselves that while we may not be able to decide on the future, it's still possible to forge new connections between art and the world in the present moment.

With this very first use case of [aside] we therefore hope to have stretched the fan of possible relationships to the outside through the means of protocol.

Georg Bak

Georg Bak is an art advisor and curator specializing in digital art, NFTs, and generative photography. With over 20+ years of experience in the art industry, he has held senior positions at renowned institutions such as Hauser & Wirth and served as a fine art specialist at LGT Bank. Currently he offers his expertise to institutions and art collectors, focusing on the convergence of blockchain...
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NGUYEN WAHED is a London-based gallery, which program evolves around but is not limited to digital and generative art practices. Focusing on contemporary artists (Leander Herzog, Sofia Crespo) who embody the intersection of technology and creativity, it expands onto rediscovering select phenomena in the peripheries of digital art starting from the 1960s (Manfred Mohr) to the first neural-network...
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Distributed Gallery

The distributed gallery is a collective of artists, craftmen and engineers established in the contemporary art worlds since 2017. They are mainly known for the creation of artworks based on distributed technologies such as blockchains. Previous works include: The Chaos Machine is the second artwork of the distributed gallery, born during summer 2018. It exists in two copies connected to each...
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