Atlas of AI, book review: Mapping out the total cost of artificial intelligence


Atlas of AI: Energy, Politics, and the Planetary Expenditures of Artificial Intelligence • By Kate Crawford • Yale College Press • 336 webpages • ISBN: 978–three hundred-20957- • £20   

“Question forgiveness, not authorization” has prolonged been a guiding principle in Silicon Valley. There is no technological industry in which this principle has been a lot more practiced than the device finding out in contemporary AI, which depends for its existence on giant databases, virtually all of which are scraped, copied, borrowed, begged, or stolen from the giant piles of information we all emit daily, knowingly or not. But this information is barely ever rigorously sourced with the subjects’ authorization.  

“Simply because we can,” two sociologists explain to Kate Crawford in Atlas of AI: Energy, Politics, and the Planetary Expenditures of Artificial Intelligence, by way of acknowledging that their tutorial establishments are no diverse from technology corporations or govt businesses in relating to any information they find as theirs for the having to teach and test algorithms. Pictures develop into infrastructure. This is how device finding out is made. 

All people would like to talk about what AI is good or risky for — identifying facial photographs, decoding speech commands, driving autos (not however!). Several want to pour ethics about modern AI, as if building procedures could change the navy funding that has outlined its elementary character. Couple want to go over AI’s true charges. Kate Crawford, a senior researcher at Microsoft and a research professor at the College of Southern California, is the exception. 

SEE: Setting up the bionic mind (no cost PDF) (TechRepublic)

In Atlas of AI, Crawford starts by deconstructing the famous rivalry that ‘data is the new oil’. Generally, that leads people today to talk about data’s financial worth, but Crawford focuses on the fact that both are extractive technologies. Extraction is mining (as in ‘data mining’ or oil wells), and exactly where mining goes, so abide by environmental problems, human exploitation, and profound society-extensive penalties.  

Crawford underlines this issue by heading to Silver Peak, Nevada, to stop by the only operating lithium mine in the US. Lithium is, of system, a very important element in battery packs for every thing from smartphones to Teslas. Crawford follows this up by contemplating the widening implications of extraction for labour, the sources of information, classification algorithms, and the country-condition conduct it all underpins, ending up with the ability constructions enabled by AI-as-we-know-it. This way lies Project Maven and ‘signature strikes’ in which, as former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden admitted, metadata kills people today. 

Snake oil

Yet some of this is patently false. Crawford traces back the picture datasets on which the most up-to-date disturbing snake oil — emotion recognition — is primarily based, and finds they have been developed from posed shots in which the topics have been advised to deliver exaggerated examples of psychological reactions. In this case, ‘AI’ is made all the way down. Is there, as Tarleton Gillespie questioned about Twitter traits, any actual human reflection there? 

When other technology books have tackled some of Crawford’s matters (much too numerous of which have been reviewed here to checklist), the closest to her built-in structural strategy is The Expenditures of Relationship by Nicholas Couldry and Ulises A. Mejias, which views our existing technological reconfiguration as the beginnings of a new marriage concerning colonialism and capitalism. 

“Any sufficiently state-of-the-art technology is indistinguishable from magic,” Arthur C. Clarke famously wrote. Following Crawford, this appears to be like a lot more like: “Any technology that appears to be like like magic is hiding a little something.” So numerous dim secrets lie in how the sausage is made. 

Modern AND Relevant Information

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Rosa G. Rose

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