Stuck in the Algorithm (Mayday.co) is a fascinating, short, sharp shock of a read from the ever-interesting Timothy Morton. Morton has been a key figure in my imagination since I stumbled upon his Romanticism courses on the now-defunct (I think?) iTunes University 10 years ago. He’s the inspiration behind the ideas of the Pastoral Noir, and of course has become – over the course of the decade – a key figure in the art world.
This new piece of writing raises the kinds of questions that the Dadaists might’ve imagined – how can we live with the systems we’ve inherited when they create mustard gas and machine guns? How can we use algorithms to escape from problems created by algorithmic thinking? How can a past which, for centuries, has been leading us to this point become the system we use to escape it? That’d be like relying exclusively on the people in charge to fix the problems made by the people in charge.
And I think these concepts and questions are the same ones being confronted by Deep Steward – Iain Ingram, Theun Karelse and FOAM’s artwork that confronts our relationship to intelligence, to the past, and to ‘nature’. How does an AI learn about ‘nature’ without our input? Without thousands of photos of dogs or millions of images tagged ‘tree’? As Trevor Paglen’s piece at the Barbican’s Curve shows, and as Ingram and Karelse discovered early on in their work, we teach our machines our human, 21st-century prejudices from the first moment they’re built.