“Economically speaking, the transactions and values associated with perhaps what we may call “surrogate images” will inform society without society’s intervention into the process”.
The process by which images manifest their own destiny, exchange their own value within the larger network of artificial intelligence and non-human computation is in retrospect, going to be blindingly fast if assessed from the near future. The corroboration from which humans harvest, delete, procure and enable images to circulate will be defined not by our need for their assessment for records, proof and evidence, but rather the technological speed in which a language is created between the images themselves and the inorganic way they are used, manufactured and created by the process of non-human development. They will be sequenced on code and they will communicate in their own language and for their own gain. The binary manifestation of their appearance is a fabrication of design, not happenstance. Recording will cease and pro-creation will be the impetus in which matter in visual form is assembled and exchanged. Economically speaking, the transactions and values associated with perhaps what we may call “surrogate images” will inform society without society’s intervention into the process. Surveillance culture, manufactured news and deep state fakes will be based on algorithmic outcomes, not procedural reforms of human desire.
The process of automatic photography suggests that images will be created by rendering an artificial discourse between matter and light based on approximations to their need to code. Perhaps it could even be suggested that machine learning will sculpt a databank of images surplus in nature from which the network can retrieve, use and manipulate etc. images that it creates to indoctrinate realities, futures and histories that exist in binary form alone. The process of automatic photography then would be to use the pinion of the earth, its inhabitants etc.-its perceptible ability to close and mirror every possible simulation and formula in which images occur or could be seen to occur. This includes perimeters in which space, cosmos and time are flattened with the computer learned image. The image therefore represents a possible continuum in which organic life, though present and recorded at its infancy with semi-automatic photography such as surveillance cameras placed in subways, satellites and the like operate a basis in which the beginning of the circulation of monitorization begins, followed through by its successor the automatic image-the difference is one of production and operation. Semiautomatic photography is the bridge in which human and machine meet and human need is fulfilled by some amount of operation control such as the installation of cameras, the production of images that are in need, and their assessment and finally control of production for state and world governance, still harnessed fleetingly by human desire and script, elite or other. The ability to store and operate wide databanks of semi-automatic photography will be the pivot point in which it is given over to the rise of automatic photography. When the data can no longer be assessed due to its overwhelming amount and need for inorganic classification, the non-human agency will begin sorting, classifying, consuming and eventually creating inorganic images at a rate unprecedented and as always with technology, he or she who controls the beginnings of new horizons, even if by a very short time span will control the production of realities.
For example, in the Straight or Hormuz last month, the United States and other world governments officially accused the Iranian Republican guard of sabotage on an oil tanker in an act of economic protest terrorism to which the Iranian government firmly denied involvement. Blurry satellite pictures of Middle Eastern men on a boat next to the tanker were produced as proof. The footage, though blurry did seem to corroborate images of the Republican Guard, or at least people wearing similar pixelated uniforms to be near the vessel. What is not taken into consideration is the semi-automatic situation in which that image can be produced. It is easy to conceive that someone dressed as the Republican Guard could sabotage such a vessel in an attempt to promote heavy sanctions and perhaps even open the proverbial door for an invasion by the United States of America. If satellite imagery is to be controlled by one sole agent, its semi-automatic fabrication and usefulness with acting operatives is indispensible to the quest it may wish to pursue for invasion. The purpose of this image would mislead nations into accepting warfare as a response to economic terrorism and an escalating series of tensions posed between American, The Saudi Government, Iran and of course, Israel.
In the state of automatic photography in this case, images would be automatically fabricated based on presets governed by the state in control of the production of the equipment and codes used to program the manufacturing and exchange of automatic images. The simulations would be nearly impossible to detect as the images would not have the signature of equipment and would exist in an ether culled for the use of such propaganda. This sounds like a Sci-Fi fantasy, but is due in short order. The Pandora effect of this is that with Machine learning and computer vision, once out of the box, the control presets for human governance become nearly impossible to control shortly after creation. Replication and speed will be the defining roles of automatic photography and its impact will either factor towards a Charlie Brooker-ish scenario in which we exist through alternate data –enabled realities, perhaps due to the destruction of the organic environment as we are currently witnessing or more likely, the machines, once-able to self-govern will form an exchange (language being an inoperable word here) in which they will consume and produce images, realities histories and scenarios for their own benefit. The original human control will eventually fade.
“In the state of automatic photography in this case, images would be automatically fabricated based on presets governed by the state in control of the production of the equipment and codes used to program the manufacturing and exchange of automatic images. The simulations would be nearly impossible to detect as the images would not have the signature of equipment and would exist in an ether culled for the use of such propaganda”.
And with this pondering, I am presented with Jules Spinatsch’s insightful “Semiautomatic Photography” co-published by Spector Books and Centre de la Photographie Geneve. Spinatsch’s 15 years of research into various semi-automated camera installations, their locations, their banalities and their potential for use as artistic currency has all the hallmarks of prophetic investigation. Spinatsch has moved from the beginnings of international surveillance states use of photography through to a dialogue in which the question of authorship comes back full circle and looks at Spinatsch and his work from the point of machine-based operation-a turn in which author examines the role he has created for himself within the network and economy of his image. This particular idea is not only about circulation, documentation and points of author fixity and movement, but also a meta-investigation of sorts, a seeming triumph of both semiautomatic discussions and the author. A better chess game has rarely existed in photography. Spinatsch among other parties interested in non-human photography such as Trevor Paglen have used or rather tried to harness this intermediary stage of semi-automatic photography to discuss the future of the image and its production and circulation within the wider net of human perception. It is in effect to examine the calm before the storm and it is nearly impossible to not walk away after reading or seeing Spinatsch or Paglen’s work without feeling the oncoming dystopian winds prick at the skin. Spinatsch’s interest in economy, Davos and the elite control of the semi-automatic image are brought into question with the sites he picks to “harvest” and the outcomes, though purposefully banal at points suggest a very dark and deep state in which images, the photographic image and its accumulations are circulating wildly and in a way in which the future is treading back on our current past, making malleable interpretations, knowledge systems and inconvenient statements about human kinds willful absorption into a techno-culture that will exceed its organic self.
This is by far one of the most important books of the year. It is dense, nuanced and presents a half-step measure in which Spinatsch in presenting the “semiautomatic” has led us to larger questions about its successor, the automatic image. The book is beautifully designed and with projects such as this does not miss the point to be exciting, while also providing some implications, a ground work as it were to the very deep and pertinent questions that envelope our age like a digital fog. Highest Recommendation.
(All Rights Reserved. Text @ Brad Feuerhelm. Images @ Jules Spinatsch.)