During the second world war the indigenous people of Melanesia developed a religious cult by observing stationed western soldiers who received food, clothing and all sorts of goods from cargo planes.
In hope the new gods will also reward them with all the goods falling from the sky, they began to imitate the observed behavior in a ritualistic way – starting to mimic hand-waved landing signals, lit signal fires, build senseless runways, towers and even carving wooden headphones without any functionality. This phenomenon was later termed „cargo-cult“ and has also become a metaphor for (imitated) questionable symbolic actions without a conscious causal connection to expected results. In our digital world „cargo-cults“ are omnipresent in symbolic actions towards big data networks, search engines or social media algorithms.
Always in the hope that the new „digital gods“ will reward us with more user-range, likes, better rankings or scores – be it through (independently) acquired behavior patterns,
or following the prophecies of social media and SEO gurus.
„The Cargo Cult“ stages this seemingly spiritual dialogue as an interaction with a self-programming artificial intelligence, resulting in a live coding performance with audiovisual artifacts.
While commonly used artificial neural networks depend on pre-selected training data, resulting in generated outcomes rather being style-imitations then genuine works, the approach followed here, instead, is based on a machine learning model called „genetic programming“. These „evolutionary algorithms“ allow to teach the artificial intelligence in „The Cargo Cult“ a special designed esoteric programming language, enabling the AI to live-code its own audiovisual pattern, without projecting the creator’s biases and ideas of art and music on it.