MEIAC (Museo Extreme√Īo a Iberoamericano de Arte Contempor√°neo)
Badajoz, Espa√Īa. Inauguraci√≥n: 19 de febrero de 2021

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Convenience: The Drive for Innovation Under the Auspice of Compression
por Eduardo Navas


Written for the MEIAC exhibit Algoritmia: Arte en la era de la inteligencia artificial

Capitalism is popularly considered the cause for economic shifts that lead to inequality in class difference closely linked to cultural tensions in terms of sex, gender, race, ethnicity, and national identity. Arguably the reason why it remains difficult to grasp the way capitalism functions is because it is commonly discussed and measured in terms of accumulation of monetary wealth. But this is not the real value of capital. Its value has always been abstract and defined by time efficiency: how long it takes to perform an action (labor) transformed into socioeconomic value. This dynamic can be encapsulated with a focus on convenience as the common term that in current times connects labor and leisure. A focus on the acceleration of technology makes it possible for the critically minded to notice the transparent process of value creation, and how it has become, at this point, fully detached from a clear relation to actual monetary wealth. Convenience (as the pivotal node of time efficiency) across networks is mashed up with monetary value after convenience proves its ability, for example, to support network virality by accumulating users; monetary value at such moment is based on careful guestimates. This is how social media juggernauts such as Facebook and Twitter were able to launch their initial public offering (IPO) with unproven business models. Their worth was defined by the number of users and how much content they produced, and the promise of growth by acquiring new users. These are the new feudal lords; in their realms, users are more than willing to give up their content and privacy for the convenience to be connected to others.

Convenience in recent times is one of the main reasons why individuals are willing to trade their actions to save time. The price users pay for online social engagement is their privacy, although social media sites reconfigure this reality claiming that the data they gather is used to ensure better services in the future, while holding the right to sell/share the data as they see fit, according to their user agreements. The power of convenience in part is also that it makes communication almost effortless. Compression, in turn, supports convenience through constant innovation. The three cultural variables: convenience, compression, and innovation support time efficiency for a global ideology of wealth as pure data to be exchanged across networks; their relation culminates with the emergence of artificial intelligence. From the early days of domestication of plants leading to agriculture to the rise of surveillance overseen by machine learning algorithms, the drive for innovation under the auspice of compression rely on convenience as the binder of the informational economy that is being optimized to run automatically by artificial intelligence.

The works selected for the exhibit “Algorithmia: Arte en la era de la inteligencia artificial” offer a concrete glimpse at the relation of compression and innovation in support of convenience in order to create value that is measured as capital, but one that is foundationally informational. We can trace this in the selected works by noticing how some of them offer a glimpse at artificial intelligence during the emergence of the Internet. The works recently acquired by MEIAC, provide timely critical reflections on the implications of more advanced stages of artificial intelligence, which is no longer just an aesthetic reflection on its own possibility of actual becoming, but now is the backbone of a global informational economy thriving on speculative abstraction.¬†


Eduardo Navas

University Park, PA (Philadelphia), February 18, 2021