Haunted Machines

The relationship we have with our technology is becoming divorced from the master-slave relationship predicted by the past and marketed by the present. As our technology becomes more advanced and more connected, it begins to act on our behalf out of our control and often without us knowing. It begins to construct and project realities and worlds that we couldn’t have predicted for. This talk will outline and consider some of the side-effects and conflicts that have risen from pervasive networked technology and show indications of how artists, designers and technologists begin to critique and combat them.

(themed around Halloween and horror movies..)

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Technological literacy is not as high as we might imagine. People (not many but some) were duped by pranks getting them to put their iPhone in water or the microwave..!

Our devices are so networked they talk to a huge number of other machines, yet we have a very low level of understanding of them or control over them.

  • The OSX Yosemite update had an opt-out to stop Spotlight sending all your keystrokes to Apple (here’s how to fix that)
  • Some books disappear from your Kindle in Singapore because they are banned there – you didn’t truly buy the book, you rented access under a set of conditions you didn’t particularly know about.
  • Someone was able to hack a wifi printer and replace the firmware with Doom (2014 hack)

Any sufficiently advanced hacking is indistinguishable from haunting.

Nest devices were hacked last year and used to launch a DDoS attack. You can be haunted by your own house. The more devices that are connected the more devices can be hacked.

Some ghosts are friendly of course… it’s a very common trope in horror. They do tend to be relatively subtle and mostly unseen.

Should we offset the existential burden of being human onto a machine? Nest is great as it can reduce your impact on the planet in terms of energy use… but what are the implications of handing that off to a machine? How do you know it’s truly doing it properly?

[Telecommunications of the 1990s by BT… where the amazing new futuristic chat actually doesn’t work very well. Surprisingly realistic…]

(To the gathered crowd:) “You can speak machine!” but most people can’t…

Paro – companionship robot… it has therapeutic benefits for the elderly. “But you’re still just lying to old people! It’s an algorithm in a seal suit!”

We can’t tell the difference between people and bots – there are many cases where people thought something was a bot and it turned out to be a human… and people felt a bit cheated. There was a telemarketing system which sounded like a robot, but it was actually a person sitting and hitting pre-recorded sound bites. Apparently telemarketers no longer trust their employees to speak?!

Any sufficiently advanced render is indistinguishable from reality.

There are people building computers in Minecraft… in fact they are trying to build a computer in Minecraft that can play Minecraft. Minecraft is a child of the network. If the internet had a physical landscape it would probably be Minecraft.

Ghostbusting… How do non-developers deal with connected devices?

[theongoingcollapse.com – bits of data that reflect the state of the human race. It doesn’t really mean anything…]

Tobias created a film The Monopoly of Fair Use, and finds the sparked conversations reveal that people didn’t realise they could do things like that… they don’t have to follow the rules.

The cloud is strange as it is so different from what it sounds like – we talk as though it’s light and fluffy and amazing, but it’s actually incredibly heavy equipment buried underground or in buildings. Our websites require masses of cables and servers and resources ripped from the earth and turned into computers.

There are no ghosts on the internet, there are just people. But we deal with the unknown by talking of ghosts. The internet is a ghost story.

“You control the perception of objective reality.” The way developers show things to the rest of the community shapes the way they understand it.

Happy Halloween!