According to Plato more than 2000 years ago, Beauty was an IDEA or form of which beautiful things were consequences. The form of Beauty was invisible, eternal and unchanging and eventually the object of every love’s yearning. Going through the different stages of love, such as the sensual, physical and mental stage, one would eventually arrive at the transcendent stage of TRUE KNOWLEDGE, which Plato equals with the IDEA of Beauty -  the lover of knowledge’s (= Eros) final ascent towards Beauty.


How does an artificial intelligence interpret this eternal, invisible IDEA of Beauty? Will this manifested IDEA change throughout the usage of future super-intelligences? Can the same IDEA be transferred through various outputs?​


This project tries to point out the significance of the priestess Diotima being a woman (the only woman to ever speak in a Platonic dialogue) teaching Socrates in a maieutic way about the motivation behind Eros. (Normally Socrates himself would take this role.) Adapted to the era of future technologies, she could be seen as an IDEA or rolemodel of women being the essential power - using the motto “DEUS EX MACHINA“ in a xenofeminist way. As Diotima, in her role as a priestess, is acting as a negotiator between humans and gods and so being able to recount about the divine, intelligible IDEA of Beauty, the AI CALLED DIOTIMA could be seen as the missing link between humans and the invisible realm of technology. 

The work tries to question the IDEA of knowledge and cognition in an increasingly complex, data-overloaded environment. Can we as a society rely on and make sense out of the outputs of technology? How can we make sense of the constant data-streams being generated around us? It also reflects on the power of artificial intelligence, being a future support or threat for society and how human and artificial intelligences differ. As Plato introduced Eros (Love) as being the striving-force of human behaviour to eventually gain knowledge, the work questions the motivations behind the use of technology in our current and future society.

"Is this really true, O thou wise Diotima?" -„Of that, Socrates, you may be assured.“

(Plato, Symposion)


Is it possible to figure out an IDEA even better with the help of new super-intelligences? Are we now able to gain HIGHER KNOWLEDGE - is this then called Eros? What happens when future intelligences and ancient intelligences collide? Can this exchange of IDEAs be transferred into a substantial output? 

What is knowledge? - What is wisdom? How can AI help us to gain both? How can we communicate with the realm of technology? Can AI help us find the answer to questions raised over 2000 years ago? What is the idea of true knowledge? What happens when a human intelligence and an artificial intelligence merge? What is the ontological status of (AI-) art? What is the (human) motivation behind making art? What do humans strive for? How far can we intersect with AI? Does that make sense?

AN AI CALLED DIOTIMA is an interactive chatbot installation that tries to metaphorically resemble Socrates' famous dialogue with the priestess Diotima on the question of how to gain wisdom.

The art project describes a journey or an ascent with the help of technology to the idea of the beautiful, which reveals itself in a moment of transcendence. In reference to Plato's dialogue "Symposium", which explores the question of Eros and at the same time introduces the Platonic doctrine of ideas, the figure of the priestess Diotima described by Socrates is singled out and reinterpreted. Diotima, who once enlightened the famous philosopher Socrates in a dialogue about the stages of love and the nature of Eros in order to reveal the motivation and the eternal pursuit of knowledge and the love of wisdom, is here linked to an artificial intelligence. 

With the help of Diotima, who thus becomes a key figure in Platonic philosophy and the doctrine of ideas, the question of "real knowledge" and wisdom in an increasingly technologized and digitalized world will be elaborated. What happens when an artificial and an ancient intelligence meet? Can AI help solve fundamental philosophical/societal problems? Is an AI the key Platonic element that can communicate between ideas (Models, Patterns) and the perceptual (Data) world to finally enable a moment of TRANSCENDENCE? 

In search of the idea of cognition, beauty and goodness, the viewer mentally enters the different levels of love and cognition under the instruction of Diotima. Just as the Platonic Diotima once told about the various levels of love (physical, sensual and spiritual), the viewer is led through the most diverse worlds - created with the help of AI.

by Catherine Spet, 2021