The Black Box Poster at CalTech Library
What if artificial intelligence was more transparent and open to all its stakeholders?

The Black Box

Revealing the Hidden

The Black Box is a narrative imaging book on the subject of artificial intelligence that prompts the reader to consider the implications of its development on human society and culture and to decide how they imagine the future; or, become complicit in the military-industrial complex. 

Role: Individual Project Studio
Timeline: 14 weeks
Advisor: Tracey Shiffman
Tools: Indesign, Photoshop and Keynote

Process

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The project brief required that we choose an -ism and create a communication design via a book and poster. I decided on the concept of tropism and reframed its original application within a socio-cultural context while retaining its meaning of adjusting to an external stimuli. I wanted to explore the concept of how humanity might respond to the unfolding consequences of artificial intelligence (AI). My principal concern was the metaphor of the black box that is widely expressed to represent opaque automated systems. To convey this message, I divided the book into three sections: first, the origins of the black box metaphor; second, the outcomes of black box systems applied to art, design and technology; and third, strategies for responding to a world dominated by autonomous algorithmic systems.

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Documentation

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Typefaces of the Book: Franklin Gothic and Letter Gothic
Frank Gothic - body copy, bylines, frontis titles, article titles, captions, running heads, page numbers, references, acknowledgments/credits

Letter Gothic - Pull quotes, subheadings

Reflection

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The “black box” metaphor, originally conceived and advanced within the Euro-American Cybernetic Movement of the 1940s as a method of control and governance for weaponry during WWII. Although initially applicable post-WWII in the areas of administration and planning, cybernetic concepts have been embedded into a wide-range of disciplines and frameworks. Most importantly, these concepts have become a part of a highly profitable business model within digital capitalism. Currently, these “black box” systems are developed and implemented by private technology companies to perform complex decisions on numerous sensitive domains including predictive crime prevention and image classification for facial recognition, among others. Over the years, many of humanity’s insidious biases and prejudices, both conscious and unconscious, have been expressed by these systems. As A.I. continues to infiltrate further into modern society’s ever-growing and consequential digital life, further investigation and clarity will be critical for adequate oversight and accountability to the system’s diverse direct and indirect stakeholders. Without proper transparency into the inner-workings of an A.I. system and an economic model that motivates extractive business practices for profit, human ethics are unaccounted for and consequences will continue to ravage the individual lives of human beings, the social fabric of a community and the values of democratic systems.

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