Futurists have long foretold the rise of the machine. Novelists put it into words. Film makers added apocalyptic video to the narrative. Robots crushing humans, AI taking over decision centers, you know the drill.
So much so that it’s become a future we simultaneously accept (it will come) and reject (but not just yet, this is still SciFi). If you believe the star businessmen of today (Musk, Gates and others) the threat is very real. When AI beat chess world champions 20 years ago, our reaction was “yeah, but they’ll never beat us at Go, that’s too creative a game for a machine, too human”. Now that AI has thrashed us at Go and that connected objects are starting to be a real part of our daily lives, more and more are joining the ranks that recommend caution.
Still, let’s not bother about that for now. Really, does it matter if your fridge strangles your cat, just for kicks, in January 2021 while Nest fries up your neighbour’s dog? No, what I’m on about today is far more dangerous for us photographers and it’s at work, today ! 24/7, even on this commemorative day. I’m talking about the Trophy Camera.
The what ?
From the website :
‘Trophy Camera’ is a photo camera that can only make award-winning pictures. Just take your photo and check if the camera sees your picture as award-winning.
Yeah, you read that right. Do not readjust your mind.
I mentioned the idea of AI taking photographs for us in my reaction to the Sony A9 launch. Technology is pushing us away from decision-making. Which is great when the decisions are repetitive, low-level, number crunching and unrewarding. But when we turn to machines to replace us in what is one of the most human of all human aspects, artistic creativity, all kinds of go se start to happen in my mind.
Just for information, here’s how this technical miracle is achieved :
This A.I. powered camera has been trained by all previous winning World Press Photo™s of the year. Based on the identification of labeled patterns, the camera is programmed to recognise, make and save only winning photos
Judging by the current results on the public gallery, it’s safe to say that we have a few more days of creative freedom ahead of us. And I don’t want to sound retrograde on all this. After all, I love Apple Photos because of its interface, that replaces traditional sliders with predefined effects sliders. And digital has saved us the pain of processing film. And I have a PhD in Artificial Intelligence, specifically, Machine Learning. And progress is good. But the fact that someone is actually defining the future of visual triumphs as a mashup of the past is pretty unpleasant. Or is that just me ? 😉
Still not convinced ? Check out beauty.ai, a beauty contest where the judges are AI programs trained with photographs of pretty people to detect one by themselves. Not only do all finalists look very much alike, revealing how narrow the evaluation criteria are, but training biases are painfully obvious in the fact that no coloured contestants were picked in any of the categories. AI is a fantastic tool (and beauty.ai is all about enabling robots to detect health issues just by looking at people !!) Let’s be careful about what we try to achieve through its techniques.
On a different, but not totally unrelated note, DS will soon be publishing an article about the photographic equivalent of the Maslow hierarchy of needs. This is a crowd-brainfart-storming initiative. So, if you’re interested, can you start thinking about what is essential, what is inspiring, what provides esteem and self-esteem (…) in the photographic world (I mean gear, personal style, cultural drive, social media … everything you can think of).
Finally, since so many of you seem so fond of your Smartphones as cameras, here is the ultimate strap-on gift for yours. For a more stable relationship.
Have a great day 🙂
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