Kate Crawford | Trevor Paglen: Training Humans at Osservatorio Fondazione Prada, September 12, 2019 – February 24, 2020

“’Training Humans’” is the first major photography exhibition devoted to training images: the collections of photos used by scientists to train artificial intelligence (AI) systems how to ‘see’ and categorize the world. In this exhibition, Crawford and Paglen reveal the evolution of training image sets from the 1960s to today. Their work highlights how the private and public sectors are harvesting people’s online photographs as raw material for human classification and surveillance. Audiences have a rare opportunity to look within the AI technologies that have permeated our society: including facial recognition, gait detection, biometric surveillance, and even emotion recognition.

This exhibition aims to open the black boxes of AI. ‘Training Humans’ exposes the biases, assumptions, errors, and ideological positions within AI technologies. By revealing how AI systems have been devised over the last six decades, Crawford and Paglen show how present-day AI systems perpetuate practices of social classification, surveillance, and segmentation — and how they echo the phrenology and eugenics of the past.” — Fondazione Prada

Exhibition views of “Kate Crawford | Trevor Paglen: Training Humans” at Osservatorio Fondazione Prada, 2019. Photos by Marco Cappelletti. Courtesy Fondazione Prada.

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As stated by Trevor Paglen, “when we first started conceptualizing this exhibition over two years ago, we wanted to tell a story about the history of images used to ‘recognize’ humans in computer vision and AI systems. We weren’t interested in either the hyped, marketing version of AI nor the tales of dystopian robot futures.” Kate Crawford observed, “We wanted to engage directly the images that train AI systems, and to take those images seriously as a part of a rapidly evolving culture. They represent the new vernacular photography that drives machine vision. To see how this works, we analyzed hundreds of training sets to understand how these ‘engines of seeing’ operate.”

Exhibition was conceived by Kate Crawford, AI researcher and professor, and Trevor Paglen, artist and researcher.