In/visible Subjects of AI: Ghost Work & Biometric Control in the Global South

Seminar taught at University of Arts and Design Karlsruhe

Dataset used by Facebook to recognize objects in the Global South in relation to income.

This course asks: Who are the makers of AI? What kind of labour is needed in order to put AI systems to work? To answer this question, the course discusses the central yet invisible role that labour, daily life and social behaviours of people in the Global South play in forming the material production of AI. Foregrounding the manifold ways in which subaltern subjects actively shape AI allows to gain a deeper understanding of the relation between the so-called developed western world and the developing world.

Secondly, the course contextualises the function of face recognition and other forms of biometric control for the organization of society and its economic activities. Although today biometric identification is emerging as a standard procedure for many activities in everyday life, it is not a recent invention. On the contrary, biometrics dates back to ancient times and already there a link could be found between biometric measurement and economics. There is, for example, evidence that fingerprints were used as early as 500 B.C. to organise Babylonian business transactions. In thinking these two aspects together (biometric control/invisible labor), this course traces the current modes of production of AI from colonial pasts to the present.