Twitter Discussion: Artificial Intelligence

A key part of the Phonar course is the element of connectivity and openness, this is mostly achieved through the social media platform Twitter. Phonar participants are encouraged to tweet their ideas and notes surroundings the concepts explored in the Schedule with the hashtag ‘phonar’ which allows anyone interested to view all of the tweets related to the Phonar concepts.

In this case the discussion was provoked by the article Fred Ritchin introduced to Phonar about an advance in Image-Recognition software. I was particularly interested in this article because the advance of artificial intelligence is a concept that raises many issues, perhaps the most common is the idea that computers are expanding their capacity to replace humans. Does the element of software change the nature of existing practises? For example could a software version of Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’ reference historic actions of documenting and examining a culture with the view of dominating it such as the British colonisation of India? Although the film ‘The Matrix’ still seems a futuristic concept, the act of teaching a computer to examine and essentially understand it’s environment and the people in it could essentially equip them with the tools and knowledge to eventually dominate humans. Perhaps this has already happened? How many people in the world today are completely dependant on technology to survive?

The discussion was shared between myself, Matt Johnston and twitter user Jon Jolley and was based around this speculation whether artificial intelligence has actually reached the point of human thinking. Jon Jolley argued that although computers can ‘decode and describe an image’, it can not fully understand it yet and that we still haven’t seen an existence of ‘robotographers’. To which Matt Johnston responded with the question of whether GoogleMaps could be seen considered as a robot photographer. Certainly although the technology of GoogleMaps is responsible for the imaging of infrastructure we increasingly rely on; it still took the human to drive the car with the camera mounted upon it, to collate this information. With this logic, saved actions in Photoshop could be considered as editors as the human constructed the process but the technology carried it out.

In today’s society it is evident that technology has improved the capacity of the camera to construct the potential for a perfect image by choosing the right settings and even being able to detect a smile which activates the shutter. When posed this fact Jolley counteracted with the view that technology has been equipped with a number of ‘tools’ previously unseen but in it’s current state digital technology doesn’t have the ‘objectivity’ to ‘form a narrative’. However he immediately challenged this notion with an article declaring that a patented book writing system has been responsible for the creation and sales of a vast amount of books, suggesting that technology does have the capacity at least to create a linear narrative. Through examination it became clear that artificial intelligence does actually have the capacity to complete tasks that suggest a thinking process however the exact nature of which is yet to be defined.

Matt Johnston focused around the term previously used to describe the thought process in constructing a narrative which was ‘objectivity’. We typically have a split between subjectivity and objectivity in relation to the construct of content, especially news content. However are these terms the ones to be used in relation to the process of construction made by artificial intelligence? Certainly they replicate that of the human thinking process however they are only measuring data and using algorithms to complete the task given to them. Matt Johnston introduced two terms that would perhaps better examine and describe the contrast between human and artificial intelligence; these are evidentiary and emotive. The evaluation and usage of data by artificial intelligence would the evidentiary thought process whereas the emotive thought process completed by the human would be the inclusion or exclusion of emotion in the construction of their narrative. Subjectivity and objectivity would still be applicable to the emotive thought process as an object approach is the removal of personal emotions which would allow the issue to be examined without bias.

It is clear that Fred Ritchin is right in his urge that we start to redefine the changing environment around us and stop relating unfamiliar content to the outdated ideology we feel safe in. Once we start re-describing our environment we are in a state where we can examine and understand change. As David Campbell outlined, we construct and engage with narrative to fulfil our need to contextualise ourself in relation to our surroundings, therefore it stands to gain that if we define the world we will be able to better understand it. However the examination of the technologic evolution may not become completely achieveable through definition. Ritchin defines digital imaging as ‘quantum mechanics’, the more we try to quantify the effects of the digital revolution, the harder it will become to measure as the evolutionary process fluctuates.


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