Barranco District, Peru — Photo by @andresurena

Revisiting the Anatomy of An AI system

The Amazon Echo as an anatomical map of human labor, data and planetary resources

One of the most riveting reads on artificial intelligence hardware that I have ever read is the anatomy of an AI system written by Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler in 2018. It made me increasingly aware of this issue. It is perhaps partly the reason why I made this connection part of my TEDx talk in February 2020

“…linked to each of us by invisible threads of commerce, science, politics and power.”

This article describes three processes.

  1. Human labor,
  2. Data

“…the ethereal metaphor of ‘the cloud’ for offsite data management and processing is in complete contradiction with the physical realities of the extraction of minerals from the Earth’s crust and dispossession of human populations that sustain its existence.” (Crawford & Joler, 2018)

The authors refer to Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Nielson that use the term ‘extractivism’ to name the relationship between different forms of extractive operations.

“Each object in the extended network of an AI system, from network routers to batteries to microphones, is built using elements that required billions of years to be produced.”

These elements are then assembled into products meant to be used for only a few years.

“…the attempt to capture the full supply chain is a truly gargantuan task: revealing all the complexity of the 21st century global production of technology products.”

One example they make is from Apple:

AI Policy and Ethics at Student at University of Copenhagen MSc in Social Data Science. All views are my own.