We are witnessing the greatest upheavals of modern times: Artificial Intelligence and Global Change are altering fundamentally what we took for granted.

My project Quantified Reality is the attempt to photographically document these epoch-defining developments. I take the role of a rapporteur from outer space: looking at our earth like an alien bio- and ethnographer.

From a distance, the dramatic transformations observable to the Earth System – Climate Change, the extinction of species, but also the creation of Artificial Intelligence, machine cognition, and Autonomous robots – have the same root or cause: the actions of one species, colonizing all continents and dominating the whole planet: Mankind.

Today, our world becomes understandable to the logic of machines. The tangible is turned into bits and bytes. Now, the world becomes countable – a Quantified Reality.

The topic is urgent – digitization is the oil of the 21st century.

Every day, machine cognition improves. How will Artificial Intelligence be used? What will its societal consequences be like, now that technology penetrates everyday life comprehensively? Today, digitally created and stored data exceeds in volume all information and knowledge recorded by humanity through the millennia hitherto.

Every day species go extinct, while – even in Europe – unknown new species are still discovered regularly. While protection of the earth system against pollution, habitat loss, and Climate Change is only slowly advancing, tech-visionaries sketch geo- and bio-engineered solutions. Will drones and robots succeed wildlife?


XXX
XXX

Autonomous bionic drone
LOCATION
Delft, The Netherlands
DESCRIPTION
Post-Doc researcher Matěj Karásek (left) developed and constructed a series of ultra-light, wing-flapping, autonomous drones that resemble the fruitfly Musca funebris.


After all, bird and insect populations are dying at an alarming rate: since the 1980s, half of all starlings and sparrows disappeared and the amount of insect biomass fell by 80 percent.

The topic may seem abstract. But as a medium of translation of complex information into visual messages, photography has the potential to articulate societal, political, and economic trends into visually engaging and comprehensive images.

As a photographer, I have always strived to find the world that lies below the surfaces of the ordinary, the shadow-world that a dedicated artist can reveal, given sufficient time. Examining what will be lost and what can remain is my story. I intend to reach past the comfort zone, asking questions about struggle, suffering, and about foreseeable loss. It’s a universal story, really. For if we don’t quest for the future, what do we really quest for?


3D light detection and ranging image of species rich urban wasteland wilderness
LOCATION
Rummelsburg, Berlin, Germany
DESCRIPTION
Light detection and ranging is a technology that creates an accurate representation of space. It is commonly used in self-driving cars and other autonomous robots.

To tackle the complexity of the topic, I propose a photographic encyclopaedia: a series single images and self-contained, mono-thematical chapters on narrow, well-defined sub-aspects.



The Encyclopaedia
of the
Quantified Reality


The Quantified Reality is invisible. It is based on cables lying deep on the ground of the oceans, server farms set up in non-descript office buildings, and algorithms working in ordinary computer terminals. There’s little that gives away the societal power, political dependencies, and economical importance of the technologies implied.

The Quantified Reality raises a fundamental question: How can we debate what we can't see, what is so abstract?

GLA-1

TAT 14

SEA-ME-WE 3

APOLLO

SEA-ME-WE 3 Internet Cable Landing
LOCATION
Colombo, Sri Lanka
DESCRIPTION
The SEA-ME-WE 3 subsea cable connecting Europe to Asia makes landfall on te Mount Lavinia beach in Colombo, Sri Lanka



————————————————————————————————



AM3 Data Center
LOCATION
Science Park, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
DESCRIPTION
Amsterdam is one of the world’s densest network interconnection hubs with a plethora of data centers, network facilities, and the worlds 2nd busiest internet exchange point "AMS-IX" at 6322 Gb/s.

MareNostrum 4 super computer
LOCATION
Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), Barcelona, Spain
DESCRIPTION
MareNostrum 4 is used in climate research and geophysical modeling for climate change forecast besides BSC's Artificial Intelligence activities.

Automated High-Frequency Stock Trading Desk LOCATION Webb Traders Trading Floor, Amsterdam, The Netherlands DESCRIPTION An automated trading system is a computer algorithm that autonomously trades on a (stock) exchange or market centre.

MareNostrum 4 flash storage arrays
LOCATION
Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), Barcelona, Spain
DESCRIPTION
When entering service in 2017, MareNostrum 4 was the 13th most powerful super computer in the world with a peak performance of 11.15 Petaflops.

Automated High-Frequency Stock Trading Desk LOCATION Webb Traders Trading Floor, Amsterdam, The Netherlands DESCRIPTION Automated trading systems operate at speeds greatly exceeding human abilities, often in ultra high frequencies in the millisecond range. Traders hence only supervise systems but rarely intervene.

Automated High-Frequency Stock Trading Desk
LOCATION
Webb Traders Trading Floor, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
DESCRIPTION
Automated trading systems operate at speeds greatly exceeding human abilities, often in ultra high frequencies in the millisecond range. Traders hence only supervise systems but rarely intervene.



————————————————————————————————



The Quantified Reality is greedy; stock traders spend multi-millions on building direct microwave links between the large stock exchanges like Frankfurt and London or New York and Chicago. These private connections allow stock traders to ‘act in the future’ as information is received a fraction of a second earlier than through conventional fibre-based internet connections.

Supervisor of an Ultra-Fast Electro-Magnetic Link between Frankfurt and London Stock Exchange. LOCATION CustomConnect Headquarters, Amsterdam, The Netherlands DESCRIPTION These private connections allow stock traders to ‘act in the future’ as they can receive information a fraction of a second earlier than competitors relying on conventional forms of communication.

Supervisor of an Ultra-Fast Electro-Magnetic Link between Frankfurt and London Stock Exchange.
LOCATION
CustomConnect Headquarters, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
DESCRIPTION
These private connections allow stock traders to ‘act in the future’ as they can receive information a fraction of a second earlier than competitors relying on conventional forms of communication.

"the City"
LOCATION
London, United Kingdom
DESCRIPTION
London's financial district, dubbed "the City" is one of the world's largest financial centres. With the 2008 financial crisis, it became synonymous with many of the more shady banking activities. In 2018, about 90 percent of volume in the public equities markets was performed by fully automated, quantified trading systems whereby computer algorithms autonomously trade.



————————————————————————————————



The Quantified Reality is perfect surveillance. It allows an Orwellian dystopia as executed by the NSA's and GCHQ's eavesdropping programmes and the prediction of yet-to-commit crimes by PREDPOL or CAS algorithms.

Individual, collective, and non-profit initiatives are today more important than ever to challenge surveillance by corporations and governments.

Data Center Control Room LOCATION Magdeburg, Germany Operation engineers oversee the operation of several large data centers for unusual activities, hacking attempts, network failure, and technical faults.

Network Operation Center (NOC)
LOCATION
Magdeburg, Germany
Operation engineers oversee the operation of several large data centers for unusual activities, hacking attempts, network failure, and technical faults.

Dick Willems LOCATION "Unicorn" Police Station, Amsterdam, The Netherlands DESCRIPTION Dick Willems is mastermind and programmer of the CAS police software which predicts future crimes and 2015 laureate of the Big Brother Awards.

Dick Willems
LOCATION
"Unicorn" Police Station, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
DESCRIPTION
Dick Willems is mastermind and programmer of the CAS police software which predicts future crimes and 2015 laureate of the Big Brother Awards.

GCHQ Composite Signals Organisation Station Morwenstow (Cleave Camp)
LOCATION
Bude, United Kingdom
A joint operation of NSA and GCHQ, the eavesdropping centre at Cleave Camp routinely spies on all EU-US internet traffic from nearby submarine cable landing points, while at the same time intercepting communications meant for the commercial satellite ground station at Goonhilly Downs.

Leaking Fibre Cable LOCATION Data Center Biere I, Germany, DESCRIPTION This fibre cable connects a data center to the internet and its 18km distant twin for added high data security

Leaking Fibre Cable
LOCATION
Data Center Biere I, Germany,
DESCRIPTION
This fibre cable connects a data center to the internet and its 18km distant twin for added high data security

Hacker Convention 35C3, Leipzig, Germany

Hacker Convention 35C3
LOCATION
Chaos Communication Congress, Leipzig, Germany
DESCRIPTION
Every year between Christmas and New Years, about 15'000 people attend lectures and workshops on technical and political issues related to security, cryptography, privacy, and freedom of speech.



————————————————————————————————



The Quantified Reality triggered a world wide gold fever. 'Artificial Intelligence' is a buzz word. Every day, new start-ups are founded by hungry entrepreneurs, promising new AI applications. However, no machine is smart by itself; in fact it's a tedious job to train them. It's a tedious job to train algorithms.

Bangalore, India, has long been famous as the world's IT service provider. It's a multi-billion sector, providing 40 percent of India's GDP. The situation is rather bleak for those that actually do the work: Platforms like Amazon Mechanical Turk proliferate digital sweatshops where workers, called 'artificial artificial intelligence' in industry jargon, earn seldomly more than a dime per task establishing 'ground truth' for the training of AI systems. Nonetheless, Silicon Valley, the self-driving car efforts of German luxury brands, and virtually any other cutting-edge technology company happily books the services in India.

Artificial Artificial Intelligence<br>LOCATION<br>Bangalore, India<br>Data annotation workers, lid by the screen of their computers.

Artificial Artificial Intelligence
LOCATION
Bangalore, India
DESCRIPTION
Data annotation workers, lid by the screen of their computers.



————————————————————————————————



The Quantified Reality is built upon an ever-increasing number of data centres, computers, and various electronic devices. As the raw materials needed to produce them are scarce and expensive, resourcing relies on a vicious system of armed conflict, forced labour, and systematic rape. Is recycling and urban mining a solution to end the proliferation of conflict minerals?

Irregular 'Conflict Mineral' Mine LOCATION Walungu, Democratic Republic of Congo DESCRIPTION Tungsten, Tantalum, Tin, and Gold (3TG) are central for the production of electronics and are abundantly found in the eastern DRC. 3TGs greatly fund the Congo Wars, with a death toll of around 5 million, the deadliest Conflict since WWII.

Irregular 'Conflict Mineral' Mine
LOCATION
Walungu, Democratic Republic of Congo
DESCRIPTION
Tungsten, Tantalum, Tin, and Gold (3TG) are central for the production of electronics and are abundantly found in the eastern DRC. 3TGs greatly fund the Congo Wars, with a death toll of around 5 million, the deadliest Conflict since WWII.

FARDC Fighter LOCATION Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo DESCRIPTION Various militias regularly employ slavery, systematic rape, and forced cannibalism as weapons in irregular mines. Regular FARDC fighters are trained by the Archdiocese of Bukavu to counter these severe human rights violations.

FARDC Fighter
LOCATION
Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo
DESCRIPTION
Various militias regularly employ slavery, systematic rape, and forced cannibalism as weapons in irregular mines. Regular FARDC fighters are trained by the Archdiocese of Bukavu to counter these severe human rights violations.

Smuggling of 'Conflict Minerals' LOCATION Nzibira, Democratic Republic of Congo DESCRIPTION To prove 'conflict freeness', 3TG ore is tagged in certified mines. However, minerals are heavily smuggled from irregular mines to certified ones where they are re-bagged and tagged.

Smuggling of 'Conflict Minerals'
LOCATION
Nzibira, Democratic Republic of Congo
DESCRIPTION
To prove 'conflict freeness', 3TG ore is tagged in certified mines. However, minerals are heavily smuggled from irregular mines to certified ones where they are re-bagged and tagged.

Urban Mine LOCATION SIMS Recycling, Eindhoven, The Netherlands DESCRIPTION The recycling of electronics waste, also called 'urban mining', is a promising alternative to conflict minerals. For example, about 40 cell phones contain the same amount of gold as one ton of gold ore.

Urban Mine
LOCATION
SIMS Recycling, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
DESCRIPTION
The recycling of electronics waste, also called 'urban mining', is a promising alternative to conflict minerals. For example, about 40 cell phones contain the same amount of gold as one ton of gold ore.



————————————————————————————————



Artificial Artificial Intelligence<br>LOCATION<br>Bangalore, India<br>Data annotation workers, lid by the screen of their computers.

Destruction of the Global Hard Disk Supply Chain
LOCATION
Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Thailand 2011
DESCRIPTION
Since July 2011, heavy monsoon rains in southeast Asia have resulted in catastrophic flooding. In Thailand, about one third of all provinces are affected. On Oct. 23, 2011, when this image from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft was acquired, flood waters were approaching the capital city of Bangkok as the Chao Phraya River overflowed its banks.
Already on Oct. 8, 2011, the 10-metre high water barrier off the Rojana Industrial Estate (center) collapsed, others followed. About 25 percent of the global hard drive manufacturing capacities were destroyed, resulting in a global storage shortage. The situation took two years to normalize.
In this image, vegetation is displayed in red, and flooded areas are black and dark blue. Brighter blue shows sediment-laden water, and gray areas are houses, buildings and roads.
With its 14 spectral bands from the visible to the thermal infrared wavelength region and its high spatial resolution of 15 to 90 meters (about 50 to 300 feet), ASTER images help to map and monitor the changing surface of our planet. ASTER is one of five Earth-observing instruments launched Dec. 18, 1999, on Terra. The instrument was built by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.



————————————————————————————————



The Quantified Reality makes ignorance unfeasible. For decades, India has been suffering a tuberculosis endemic. But as the only test available – detecting the bacteria with a microscope – is century-old and slow, official numbers remained low. Recently introduced, internationally funded fully automatized gene test machines turned the nationwide gut feeling into facts, making the crisis impossible to ignore.

Door-to-Door Tuberculosis Screening LOCATION TB Colony, Mumbai, India DESCRIPTION India witnesses the world largest tuberculosis epidemic with about 2.2 million cases in 2011. Traditionally, NGOs screen overcrowded slums by asking residents for symptoms.

Door-to-Door Tuberculosis Screening
LOCATION
TB Colony, Mumbai, India
DESCRIPTION
India witnesses the world largest tuberculosis epidemic with about 2.2 million cases in 2011. Traditionally, NGOs screen overcrowded slums by asking residents for symptoms.

GeneXpert Tuberculosis LOCATION Dharavi Slum, Mumbai, India DESCRIPTION The GeneXpert tuberculosis testing is highly-accurate, users require minimal training, and results are available to health workers within two hours. Since the introduction of GeneXpert testing machines, official tuberculosis numbers in India exploded.

GeneXpert Tuberculosis
LOCATION
Dharavi Slum, Mumbai, India
DESCRIPTION
The GeneXpert tuberculosis testing is highly-accurate, users require minimal training, and results are available to health workers within two hours. Since the introduction of GeneXpert testing machines, official tuberculosis numbers in India exploded.

Gendi Asho Molpuria LOCATION Mumbai, India DESCRIPTION Gendi Asho Molpuria was tested tuberculosis positive and is currently receiving medication. In her neighbourhood, 64 are currently treated for TB, 13 of which are infected with resistant or multi-resistant strains.

Gendi Asho Molpuria
LOCATION
Mumbai, India
DESCRIPTION
Gendi Asho Molpuria was tested tuberculosis positive and is currently receiving medication. In her neighbourhood, 64 are currently treated for TB, 13 of which are infected with resistant or multi-resistant strains.

Tuberculosis Sample LOCATION Mumbai, India DESCRIPTION Until recently, the only technique available to most laboratories in developing countries is over a century-old and involves detecting the bacteria using a microscope.

Tuberculosis Sample
LOCATION
Mumbai, India
DESCRIPTION
Until recently, the only technique available to most laboratories in developing countries is over a century-old and involves detecting the bacteria using a microscope.



————————————————————————————————



The Quantified Reality is struggling to gather information about the accelerating climate change and the suffering biosphere. Even as climate change needs to be slowed urgently and the mass extinction of species needs to be stopped, data about the well-being of birds and insects are gathered by hobbyists and volunteers.

Historic Bumblebee Collection

Historic Bumblebee Collection
LOCATION
Entomological Association Krefeld, Germany
DESCRIPTION
The decline in insect biomass and diversity in recent years is dramatic, amounting to about 80 percent in three decades. Causes and consequences are largely unknown.

Contemporary Bumblebee Collection

Contemporary Bumblebee Collection
LOCATION
Entomological Association Krefeld, Germany
DESCRIPTION
Definite causes for the drastic decline of insects and birds are unknown, however, climate change, industrialized agriculture with intensive pesticide and fertilizer use, an habitat loss are likely explanations

Bird Counting

Bird Counting
LOCATION
Noordwijk, The Netherlands
DESCRIPTION
Despite their importance, most data about the birds and insects, about the biodiversity, is collected by unpaid volunteers.

Injured Bat

Injured Bat
LOCATION
Berlin, Germany



————————————————————————————————



It's not only wildlife that is under threat: also cultivars lose the richness and abundance of species. There were more than 20'000 known apple (Malus domestica Borkh.) varieties of which some 7'000 are still cultivated. But few, mostly engineered apples like the 'Red Delicious' dominate the market with a share of around 90%. Preserving the diversity is important to maintain resistency against diseases and climate change. It's the same situation everywhere: bannanas almost exlcusively are one sub-group of varieties (Musa × paradisiaca AAA 'Cavendish'), and even various kinds of swine and chicken are threatened of extinction.

Malus domestica Borkh. var. 'Melo Rosa romana'
LOCATION
Tenuta Granducale di Montecchio, Italy
DESCRIPTION
3D light detection and ranging image of an apple cultivar.



————————————————————————————————



Contra-intuitively, biodiversity is higher in cities than in the country side. Two thirds of all breeding birds that appear in Germany are observable in large cities; for many animals, they resemble a rocky landscape with plenty of shelter and food supply. The New York City falcon colonies are legendary. In the Netherlands, the grey heron was nearly extinct but survived in the cities and is now retaking the countryside.

Does the Quantified Reality create new habitat? We hardly know. Certainly, our spatial sensing doesn't do justice to flora, fauna, habitat: humans mostly rely on simple stereoscopic RGB-Vision to create a map of our surrounding. Many birds see additional colours, extending into UV. Some reptiles see in the infrared spectrum. Cats have whiskers to feel their way and bats use echo sounding.

Employing light detection and ranging (LiDAR), as commonly used in self driving cars and other autonomous robots, the Quantified Reality tries to create an accurate intelligence of urban habitat.

XXX

3D light detection and ranging image of species rich wasteland
LOCATION
Rummelsburg, Berlin, Germany
DESCRIPTION
Light detection and ranging is a technology that creates an accurate representation of space. It is commonly used in self driving cars and other autonomous robots.

XXX

Extended spectrum photograph of urban wasteland
LOCATION
Diemer Vijfhoek, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

XXX

3D light detection and ranging image of species rich wasteland
LOCATION
Victoria Park, Berlin, Germany

XXX

Extended spectrum photograph of urban wasteland
LOCATION
Diemer Vijfhoek, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
DESCRIPTION
Human spatial awareness is strongly relying on vision and the sensitivity of our eyes is limited to a narrow band of wave length. Many animals sense additional colours.

XXX

3D light detection and ranging image of species rich wasteland
LOCATION
Rummelsburg, Berlin, Germany

XXX

Extended spectrum photograph of urban wasteland
LOCATION
Diemer Vijfhoek, Amsterdam, The Netherlands



————————————————————————————————



Every day species go extinct. At the same time, humans create a new species: that of artificially intelligent machines. Which animals did we never discover before man-made mass-extinction? Which animals could have evolved, would time have allowed?

Diverting processing power of Google’s high-performance computers, I designed an Artificial Intelligence to find an answer what could have been: my insGAN AI is creating plausible, possibly novel, insects.

insGAN trainingset of 15x14 moths (Mimas tiliae f. artific.)
LOCATION
Virtual
DESCRIPTION
InsGAN is a proprietary Artificial Intelligence, designed by the artist, that creates new insects and insect species. It consists of generative (G) and an adversarial (A) AI that form a Neural Network (N) that creates fictive yet plausible insects, in this case lime hawk moths (Mimas tiliae f. artific.)

120px rendering of an insGAN training specimen of a lime hawk moth (Mimas tiliae f. artific.)
LOCATION
Virtual

Animation of the progress of creating 4x4 new specimen of Mimas tiliae f. artific.
LOCATION
Virtual



Today, we live at the front-line between the analogue past and the digital future. It is my task to document the change: what is and what will be.


Because:

The Quantified Reality is inevitable.