ARTIFICIAL ARTIFICIAL FEARS
Interactive Installation, 2019
The interactive installation Artificial Artificial Fears explores the feelings of the workers “behind the machine,” the people who will be replaced by artificial intelligence, which will affect their work environment, in the near future. Lior Zalmanson uses the Amazon Mechanical Turk site, whose name calls to mind Mechanical Turk—a 19th century fair automaton that appeared to be able to play chess by itself , but in fact was operated as a marionette by an operator who hid under the board. The site matches junior employees, mostly from Third World countries, to various companies for short-term, repetitive and boring small-scale projects, such as filing documents or identifying objects in images—microtasks which are easier to entrust to a weakened, underprivileged work force than to computer software these days. The workers thus function as human robots, in effect.
The site’s login password is “artificial artificial intelligence,” which may illustrate the hierarchical relations between the employees and the advanced software. The site seeks an appearance of AI efficacy, but since it is still operated by real human beings, it turns out to be “artificial AI.”
Devoid of all rights, the people employed on the site will inevitably be replaced by AI technologies in the future. Zalmanson, whose work strives to give presence to the transparent employees, employs hundreds of the site’s workers for short-term assignments; this time, however, instead of tagging text or video excerpts, they asked to write about their feelings and fear of the future. The printer in the makeshift office erected in the gallery space prints the answers of the site’s hundreds of workers during the course of the exhibition. Visitors to the museum are invited to review the answers, to sort the various feelings and fears into boxes, and thus they themselves function as the temporary workers “behind the machine.”