Preliminary Research I

Human-out-of-the-loop investigates contemporary autonomous weapons built on computer vision and complex algorithmic systems of visual analysis. Through a forensic approach, the research engages with the notion of operational images that stem from Harun Farocki’s work. It draws attention to technical images as patterns, measurements, and instructions incorporated in lethal autonomous weapons to illustrate the mathematical abstraction of the rules of the power of destruction. It also questions the ethical and moral issues that automated weapons systems raise in contemporary war.

In the field of war, operational images are polysemous and ambiguous, open to manipulation and controversial interpretations, and images often oversimplify the complexities and systemic causes of a conflict situation. Furthermore, a new strand of ethical questions are arising: how should we deal with images that are no longer made and interpreted by humans but by intelligent machines?

The inquiry is centered on how artificial vision perceives and constructs the notion of “target” in the military-industrial context or how machines could be programmed to detect hostile activity and help weapon systems distinguish between a civilian and a combatant. It aims to help us understanding targeting systems and newly emerging forms of visualization in military applications driven by computer vision where the human is completely removed from all decision making. For this purpose, we applied an object recognition and tracking algorithm to a military propaganda video published online by the Turkish army to explore what machines recognize in a modern battlefield.

The events featured in the video took place on Monday, February 12, in the Syrian town of Jindires, southwest of Afrin. The drone view images show a group of three young Kurdish fighters in civilian clothes firing a shell with a cannon attached to a jeep. After the shooting, the combatants leave the scene with their jeep. The drone follows the fighters across the Syrian city. Finally, the jeep enters a covered garage and there is an explosion, the group is killed by an airstrike.

Drone view shows anatomy of attack on YPG fighters in Syria -Turkish military 
213 145 views • February 13, 2018