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Ghost Work 幽灵工作

From the electrical age to the information age, humanity has only taken a mere 70 years. It was not the workers who created the machines, but the machines that created the working class. Artificial intelligence has brought forth a new wave of the working class, yet compared to the Industrial Revolution era, this group of workers exists in almost complete secrecy, like ghosts. Anthropologist Mary L. Gray proposed the Last Mile Automation Paradox, suggesting that machines can never fully replace human work. Instead, as humans pursue automation, tasks that can only be solved by humans will continue to emerge. Ghost work refers to tasks assigned to workers through artificial intelligence systems or algorithms on online platforms or crowdsourcing websites. These workers train and improve machine learning algorithms by completing simple and repetitive tasks. A large number of ghost workers have been concealed within companies with substantial capital, advocating for the processes of intelligence and full automation. They earn meager rewards by performing basic and repetitive labor online, such as image annotation and content moderation. However, these jobs often serve as the starting point for the operation of intelligent systems, as AI models cannot be trained without these repetitive and tedious tasks. Their online tasks are allocated through Application Programming Interfaces (API), which means that they work alongside algorithms that lack empathy. They lack a stable work environment and relationships with colleagues, as algorithms coordinate them into atomized labor that is more manageable. In dealing with this labor force, companies even erase their individual attributes in human society, replacing their identity, gender, age, race, and other characteristics with a series of numbers. Furthermore, companies provide these workers with meager incomes while setting numerous unequal terms. There is no legal protection for on-demand workers in the online space, making it nearly impossible for them to complain or seek justice. Consumers are deceived by slogans of full automation, unaware that these tasks are performed by real human workers. They seem like ghosts of the new world, wandering among us.

This project compiles a wealth of research to identify the characteristics of ghost workers and uses AI to visualize their images and work environments. Interestingly, many ghost workers annotate images collected from the internet, and these annotated images are used to train AI models. In other words, models trained by ghost workers generate images for the workers themselves, like a Möbius loop gradually revealing the hidden parts. This project is inspired by Hito Steyerl's work, ‘How Not to be Seen’ , symbolizing the hidden population rather than making them specific. The green suits worn by the figures resemble some sort of movie green screen costume, easily recognized and eliminated by software in the era of the internet. Fictional work environment, team photos, and even dense id photos all seem to satirize how marginalized groups are treated in the era of consumerism. Society needs to actively embrace these ghost workers in order to ensure fairness, order, and human rights. After all, all human efforts in creating machines ultimately serve humans and not to enslave them to machines.


从电气时代到信息时代,人类只用了短短70年。不是工人制造机器,而是机器制造了工人阶级。人类学家Mary L. Gray提出了自动化的最后一英里悖论,她认为机器永远无法取代人类工作。人工智能创造了新一批的工人阶级,但是比起工业革命时期,这一批工人阶级的存在几乎是隐秘的,如同幽灵的存在。GhostWork指的是一些在线众包平台上的任务,由人工智能系统或算法分配给工人,这些工人通过完成简单而重复的任务来训练和改善机器学习算法。比如图像标注和内容审核,这些工作往往是AI模型运作的起点。他们的线上任务由API应用程序接口分配,也就是说与他们一同劳动的是没有共情能力的算法。他们没有稳定的工作环境和同事关系,他们被算法统筹变成更利于管理的原子化劳工。大量幽灵劳工在资本鼓吹智能化和全自动化的过程中被隐匿了。平台甚至抹去了他们在人类社会中的个体属性,身份、性别、年龄、种族等特征被一串编号所取代。消费者更是被全自动化的标语所欺骗,他们并不知道这些任务是由真实的人类完成的。他们仿佛是新世界的幽灵,游走在我们之间。

GhostWork这个项目通过文献调研总结出幽灵劳工的一些工作特点,并结合屏幕文化、职场文化以及女性主义的身体符号和特点,通过AI将他们的形象和工作场景可视化。值得一提的是很多幽灵劳工的工作是标注互联网上抓取的图像,这些标注图像将用来训练AI模型。换句话说,用幽灵劳工创造的模型为他们自己生成图像,就像是一个莫比乌斯环,让被隐去的部分慢慢显现。作品受到了Hito Steyerl的作品“如何不被看见”的启发,将被隐匿的人群符号化,而不是将他们具体化。人物的绿色西装看起来很像是电影绿幕服装,在互联网的时代里他们随时可以被软件识别并消除。虚构的工作场景和职场形象照受到奥古斯特·桑德肖像照的启发,人物的姿势和站位是根据对职场形象照的大量调研所总结出的。职场形象照不仅是一个人外貌的简单展示,更是一种强调去个性化的专业主义的复杂视觉隐喻。女性形象中的高跟鞋作为一种性别符号有社会期望、职业性别和权力结构的隐喻。绿色塑料椅子置于纯绿色的背景前,这是缺席的在场,缺席作为一种强烈的象征或隐喻。塑料这种材质在当代艺术中有很多的隐喻,它经常用来象征消费主义、人工介入、环境危机、虚假美丽等。同时,表面光滑的塑料也是工业化和标准化的符号,象征着个人与独特性的丧失。在一个越来越同质化的世界中,它经常被用来探讨人们如何失去自我和个性。密集的身份照片是将384张同类型的照片并置,灵感来源于杜塞尔多夫学派的类型学摄影。这种方法起源于19世纪的档案研究方法,经常与科学分类和文化分析紧密相连。社会需要主动接纳这些幽灵劳工才能让保证公平、秩序、人权,毕竟人类制造机器的全部努力最终是为了服务于人而不是成为机器的奴隶。

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