The Machine is Doing the Work

Interview with Nicholas Mirzoeff

Doi: https://doi.org/10.47659/m4.004.int

Optical and mechanical tools were the first major “augmentation” of human senses. The microscope approached the worlds that were too small for the optical performance of the eye. The telescope touched the too far-off space; X-rays radiated the inaccessible interior of the body. Such augmentations were not innocent, as they demanded a different interpretation of the world, which would correspond to images of infinitely small, remote or hidden. Similar augmentation is now happening with cloud computing, machine vision and artificial intelligence. With these tools, it may be possible to compile and analyze billions of digital images created daily by people and machines. But who will analyze these images and for what purpose? Will they help us to better understand society and learn from past mistakes? Or have they already been hijacked by attention-merchants and political demagogues who are effectively spreading old ideologies with new communication technologies?

Optical and mechanical tools were the first major “augmentation” of human senses. The microscope approached the worlds that were too small for the optical performance of the eye. The telescope touched the too far-off space; X-rays radiated the inaccessible interior of the body. Such augmentations were not innocent, as they demanded a different interpretation of the world, which would correspond to images of infinitely small, remote or hidden. Similar augmentation is now happening with cloud computing, machine vision and artificial intelligence. With these tools, it may be possible to compile and analyze billions of digital images created daily by people and machines. But who will analyze these images and for what purpose? Will they help us to better understand society and learn from past mistakes? Or have they already been hijacked by attention-merchants and political demagogues who are effectively spreading old ideologies with new communication technologies?

Optical and mechanical tools were the first major “augmentation” of human senses. The microscope approached the worlds that were too small for the optical performance of the eye. The telescope touched the too far-off space; X-rays radiated the inaccessible interior of the body. Such augmentations were not innocent, as they demanded a different interpretation of the world, which would correspond to images of infinitely small, remote or hidden. Similar augmentation is now happening with cloud computing, machine vision and artificial intelligence. With these tools, it may be possible to compile and analyze billions of digital images created daily by people and machines. But who will analyze these images and for what purpose? Will they help us to better understand society and learn from past mistakes? Or have they already been hijacked by attention-merchants and political demagogues who are effectively spreading old ideologies with new communication technologies?

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Photography has traditionally been a symbiosis between a human and a machine. Now it is also a symbiosis between a non-human and a machine.
Reading Time: 14 minutes
Reading Time: 14 minutes
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