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The Mechanical Turk

Humans Coming to Terms with Artificial Intelligence

Whether we like it or not, we use algorithms everyday. From our Instagram or Facebook feed, to a simple question to our Alexa about the weather, algorithms are taking over. With this explosion of Artificial Intelligence used for minor tasks, it’s not uncommon that we think that all the processes that we “pile on” algorithms are completed by computers. However, behind these tasks, there is a human that has thought of and created those algorithms. With that in mind, do we change our attitude towards our expectations?

Let us take you back to IMPAKT festival 2018: Algorithmic Superstructures, curated by Alex Anikinia, Luba Elliott and Yasemin Keskintepe. The topic of this year was contemplating how the algorithmic superstructures re-imagine the world as a matter of computational design. For this year’s festival the Serpentine Podcast On Work teamed up with IMPAKT festival to explore how data and the public space are interlinked. 

“You either create the software, or be the software”. This quote, as heard on the podcast, brings up a lot of questions, especially when thinking of the Mechanical Turk service of Amazon. The Amazon Mechanical Turk is a crowdsourcing website for businesses to hire remotely located “crowdworkers” to perform discrete on-demand tasks that computers are currently unable to do. It is operated under Amazon Web Services, and is owned by Amazon.

As the two hosts discuss, there is a lot of work that is supposed to be completed by computers but is actually done by humans. Online, one can find chatbots or supposedly AI services that have actual humans working on the other end. This, as Alex Anikinia mentions, brings up the topic of rethinking of thinking. What kind of human decisions are we making? What kind of tasks do we put on algorithms behind the safety of our screen? What moral lines are we crossing? 

Humans coming to terms with Artificial Intelligence is a big step for our society, but we have to keep in mind what kind of agency we are granting to algorithms. It’s important to always keep in mind that algorithms are still a process that requires both input and output: algorithms are not acting autonomously and are still designed by humans. Think before you act, and most importantly treat your AI kindly: you never know who’s on the other end! 

You can listen to the full podcast of the Serpentine Gallery On Work here to find out more about the 2018 IMPAKT festival and how easily we can be streams of data subjected to continuous analysis. What will happen now with the constant data handover that is being determined more and more by artificial intelligence and algorithms? Stay up to date with IMPAKT’S web-project We Are Data to find out more about the complexities of dealing with data.


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