2021 CAST Symposium "Unfolding Intelligence"

Unfolding Intelligence: The Art and Science of Contemporary Computation

In our dreams, computers were meant to be humanity’s helpmeet, easing our work, enlivening our play, and amplifying our creativity. In our nightmares, they are forces of control and surveillance, their algorithms undoing democracy and enabling exploitation.

“Unfolding Intelligence” gathers artists, scientists, and humanists with the goal of mingling otherwise enclosed areas of research, allowing for new public scrutiny and creating an inclusive field of inquiry that encourages a critically engaged view of our machines.

The four “Unfolding Intelligence” panels address the following questions: How do recent tools in computation and game-making shape the models that scientists, artists, and engineers make of the world and universe? Can artists and scientists create a world in which Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and artificial intelligence (AI) are meaningfully brought together? Can AI and software systems explain how historically recalcitrant forms of oppression persist, embedded in our technologies? Can these same agents possibly provide alternative ways of being and living together? How has computation shaped the concept of intelligence and what models for the unfolding or formation of ideas does it provide?

April 1–9, 2021

Diagram of a complex network of white lines on a black background.
Marcus Buehler, Network model. Photo: Dr. Zhao Qin.

Frontiers in Science, Technology, and the Arts

A symposium at MIT exploring the intersection of cutting-edge science and technology with frontiers in artistic practice.

Co-organized by MIT.nano and the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST), this afternoon symposium examines art forms and expressions enabled by the emergence of new materials and by advances in computing paradigms. The program showcases research, artistic collaborations, and innovations from across disciplines.

The MIT Collaborations in Art, Science, and Technology panel is one of four sessions comprising the symposium on Tuesday, February 26, 2019. For the full schedule, visit MIT.nano.

February 26, 2019 / 4:00-5:00pm
MIT Wong Auditorium, Tang Center, Building E51
Cambridge, MA

Being Material, MIT Press, 2019.
Being Material, MIT Press, 2019.

Being Material

In 1995, MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte predicted that “being digital” would have us entering a realm increasingly unconstrained by the materiality of the world. Two decades later, our everyday lives are indeed ever more suffused by computation and calculation. But unwieldy materiality persists and even reasserts itself. Programmable matter, self-assembling structures, 3D/4D printing, wearable technologies and bio-inspired design today capture the attention of engineers, scientists and artists. “BEING MATERIAL” showcased recent developments in materials systems and design, placing this work in dialogue with kindred and contrasting philosophy, art practice and critique. Panels on the PROGRAMMABLE, WEARABLE, LIVABLE and INVISIBLE—along with a concert, AUDIBLE—explored new and unexpected meetings of the digital and material worlds.

Book from MIT Press
Videos of the Symposium Sessions
Article about the Symposium
Interviews with Symposium Conveners
Press Coverage

April 21-22, 2017
MIT Samberg Conference Center
50 Memorial Drive, Building E52, 6th & 7th floors
Cambridge, MA 02139

Active Matter Summit. Photo: Conference website, courtesy of Self-Assembly Lab.

The Active Matter Summit

If today we program computers and machines, tomorrow we will program matter itself.

A conference focused on the emerging field of active matter and programmable materials that bridges the worlds of art, science, engineering, and design, demonstrating new perspectives for computation, transformation, and dynamic material applications.

A conference organized by the MIT Self-Assembly Lab in collaboration with
the MIT Center for Art Science &
Technology (CAST), the MIT Department of
Architecture, the MIT International Design
Center(IDC), Autodesk Inc. and Steelcase Inc.

April 24–25, 2015
20 Ames Street, MIT Building E15, Atrium level
Cambridge, MA 02139

A multi-colored sound wave is juxtaposed on a photo of a white gallery with a dense web of black fibers
2014 CAST Symposium


Art, science and technology are ways of knowing and changing the world. These disciplines frequently draw from one another, yet their devoted practitioners rarely have the opportunity for high-level intellectual and cultural exchange. “Seeing / Sounding / Sensing” was an intensive two-day event at MIT that invited creative artists to join with philosophers, cognitive neuroscientists, anthropologists, historians and scholars from a range of disciplines in an open-ended discussion about knowledge production. The two-fold goal was to challenge each domain’s conventional certainty about “what is known,” “how we know it” or “how we can know more” and to stimulate new issues for possible cross-disciplinary scholarship in the future.

September 26-27, 2014
MIT Media Lab
75 Amherst Street, 6th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02139