Johnny DiBlasi / Carlos Castellanos / Bello Bello (United States)

Beauty is a machine-microbial artwork that relies on an artificial intelligence agent that uses deep reinforcement learning to interact with and alter cultures of pattern-forming social bacteria to make them more aesthetically pleasing. The work features a biological artificial intelligence system that remediates the ecology of a contaminated soil while generating an audiovisual composition in real time.

It creates a situation in which the fates of contaminated soil and a group of bacterial cultures are determined by the whims of a deep reinforcement learning agent with an internal model of "beauty." The agent builds its model by observing the cooperative pattern-forming behaviors of Paenibacillus sp and other bacteria that exhibit collective social motility, producing intricate growth patterns in response to environmental conditions.

The agent then attempts to spatially modify bacterial growth by introducing chemical attractants and repellents. Images of bacterial colony growth and movement are captured by time-lapse photography and analyzed by the agent to determine how well the colonies conform to its internal model of beauty. The more beautiful the bacterial growth patterns appear to the agent, the more corrective solution the soil will receive and the more nutrients the bacterial cultures will receive.