I was recently undertaking the massive (procrastination) project of retrieving 10 years worth of photos off of a failed external hard drive. With some technical wizardry and 24 hours of a computer chugging along, I was able to scrape back in time and get everything. If you are reading this and have known me at any point since 2008 and just thought to yourself "Fuck, I hope he doesn't still have THAT photo", the unfortunate answer is, "Yes, I probably do." The good thing is, that there were so many photos, most of them will probably just end up as noise.
After the long import the image that jumped into view was a picture of an artists statement. It reads as follows:
"You can see whatever you want in my art. I was thinking about leaves when I was making it, but it also looks like a tiger being chased by a lion. Jacob Webber, age six"
This really resonates for me today, because on my way to pick up some coffee and move my legs a bit before getting this 'ol earth rotation going (Although, to be honest, I've been on this kick of cheap beer (bud light or coors light) and cheap coffee (whatever is in RiteAid), but due to a recent Opening of Eyes I'm back on good coffee), I was thinking about modifications that can be done in the world to fool AI in teslas or other autonomous driving systems (https://spectrum.ieee.org/cars-that-think/transportation/sensors/slight-street-sign-modifications-can-fool-machine-learning-algorithms).
This crossed my mind because as I was walking up to a crosswalk, I glanced over to the car that had stopped for me (a tesla) and noticed a beautiful woman in the back of it and then almost walked directly into the front wheel panel. In some ways placing a beautiful woman in the back of a car impacts me a little like placing stickers on a stop sign impacts a tesla.
And this got me thinking about the give/take between digital/meat-space, and the growing middle ground that is created between them, where it is unclear if I am purely in one or the other; a space that I think people find a little disorienting. This disorientation is partly due to the fact that physical and digital spaces are now more effectively constructed in order to shift behavior; they work together to funnel us towards outcomes. This has always been something we've been aware of, but with big data so much of what we do can be hacked while leaving us feeling we are autonomous through a process: we can't see our own nuances and subtle defaults. If you think of politics, influencers, and news sources in recent years, they are all modes of creating signals and placing markers in order to create outcomes without us thinking too much about it.
Everyone is sticking beautiful women in the back of Teslas. Everywhere.
I think Jacob seemed to be getting at this point from a more artistic perspective years ago.