Anatomy of an AI System

Anatomy of an AI System – The Amazon Echo as an anatomical map of human labor, data and planetary resources. By Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler (2018)

Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler have created a powerful infographic and web site, Anatomy of an AI System. The dark illustration and site are an essay that starts with the Amazon Echo and then sketches out the global anatomy of this apparently simple AI appliance. They do this by looking at where the materials come from, where the labour comes from (and goes), and the underlying infrastructure.

Put simply: each small moment of convenience – be it answering a question, turning on a light, or playing a song – requires a vast planetary network, fueled by the extraction of non-renewable materials, labor, and data.

The essay/visualization is a powerful example of how we can learn by critically examining the technologies around us.

Just as the Greek chimera was a mythological animal that was part lion, goat, snake and monster, the Echo user is simultaneously a consumer, a resource, a worker, and a product.

diyMatrix: Bertin’s Manual

bertin machine

I have long been interested in Jacques Bertin, a pioneer in thinking about visualization. His Semiology of Graphics is a classic. I had been thinking it would be great to try or simulate his way of doing cluster analysis with physical matrices which he called “dominos”. I was therefore pleased to see that someone has recreated his matrices, see DIY Matrix.

Charles Perin, Pierre Dragicevic, and Jean-Daniel Fekete have updated the matrices and fabricated a version for a CHI’15 workshop on Investigating the Challenges of Making Data Physical (PDF).

Update: They also have a web application called Bertifier that allows you to try it virtually. This interactive allows you to choose different ways of decorating the blocks and will then also reorder them. It is fascinating to play with.

interactiveBertin

Now I have something I want to print on a fabricator.

Fragmented Memory | Phillip Stearns

From Elijah Meeks’ hackathon at the Texas Digital Humanities Conference I learned about Fragmented Memory by Phillip Stearns. This is a project that takes binary data and then turns it into weaving instructions using Processing. Here is one of the large tapestries woven (and available for sale.)

If you can’t afford a $15,000 tapestry, there are also cheaper blankets here.

I’ve just put them on my Christmas list (which I can never find in time.)

A Turing Machine: The Hardware

Sean pointed me to a video (abvoe) explaining the working of a real Turing Machine built by Mike Davey in Wisconsin. It is worth noting that Turing didn’t (to my knowledge) every try to make the machine he described for theoretical purposes. Also worth noting (as is clear in the video) is that there are actually 3 settings for each position: nothing, 0 or 1.