Anatomy of an AI system | Vladan Joler, Kate Crawford

2 min read

Anatomy of an AI System is a large-scale map and long-form essay investigating the human labor, data, and planetary resources required to build and operate an Amazon Echo. The exploded view diagram combines and visualises three central, extractive processes that are required to run a large-scale artificial intelligence system: material resources, human labor and data. The map and essay consider these three elements across time — represented as a visual description of the birth, life and death of a single Amazon Echo unit.

At this moment in the 21st century, we see a new form of extractivism that is well underway: one that reaches into the furthest corners of the biosphere and the deepest layers of human cognitive and affective being. Many of the assumptions about human life made by machine learning systems are narrow, normative, and laden with error. Yet they are inscribing and building those assumptions into a new world, and will increasingly play a role in how opportunities, wealth and knowledge are distributed.

Dr Vladan Joler is Professor at the Academy of Arts of the University of Novi Sad and founder of the SHARE Foundation. He is leading the SHARE Lab, a research and investigation lab that explores the technical and social aspects of algorithmic transparency, digital labor exploitation, invisible infrastructures, and technological black boxes.

Kate Crawford is a leading scholar of the social and political implications of artificial intelligence. Over her 20-year career, her work has focused on understanding large-scale data systems, machine learning and AI in the wider contexts of history, politics, labor, and the environment. Kate has advised policy makers in the United Nations, the Federal Trade Commission, the European Parliament and the White House.