Saturday, November 24, 2018


Fake Eyes-In-The-Sky Oil on linen 30 x 45 cm 2018

An airborne drone is sometimes called an 'eye in the sky'. In fact, there is a movie called  Eye In The Sky . Starring Helen Mirren the movie presents various dilemmas associated with targeting and attack decision making by remote drone operators and other defence personnel. 

What sort of questions are posed by calling an unmanned air vehicle, which is remotely piloted and weaponised, an eye in the sky? Firstly there are questions about attributing the machine with animal, human or a non-human, abilities ie: seeing. Can a drone really see? Is imaging technology really representative of an eye, or a set of eyes? Is machine vision, in terms of autonomous reviewing of image data collected by a drone feed, another kind of seeing? What are the existential implications if we ascribe human abilities to increasingly autonomous machine systems? Do we inadvertently relinquish something?

I have previously written about the  the word 'vision' used in terms such as 'drone vision' and 'machine vision'. Vision, when associated with human vision, is not only about seeing, but also dreaming, imagining and visionary thinking. For example,. I 'see'pictures in my head when i read a book, even a non-fiction book! Can a drone dream, imagine or come up with some kind of visionary idea? The answer is no. Can machine vision, tasked with reviewing image data, imagine or dream? No, it scopes rather than sees. If anomalies are detected does machine vision then imagine outcome scenarios of what might happen, like a human would imagine? 

Ascribing human abilities of seeing and vision to the machine may, paradoxically, blind us! That poses the question, if a drone can see, is drone blindness also possible? This, I think, really penetrates the question, can a drone see, because blindness is about not seeing rather than being turned off or being dead. Human blindness does not exclude other kinds of vision - dreaming, imagining and visionary thinking. That a drone cannot dream, imagine or come up with visionary ideas indicates a kind of blindness that raises further questions about ascribing human abilities of sight and vision to the machine. 

There must be alternative words to describe a drone's imaging capabilities and machine vision capabilities - the one I have come up with is scoping. Scoping does not indicate abilities to imagine or dream, but it does indicate abilities to target and attack. 

Fake Eyes-In-The-Sky
In my painting Fake Eyes-In-The-Sky two fake eyes hover, each painted with small 'pixels'. The red and green colours indicate night scoping and infrared technologies. Drones are not 'eyes-in-the-sky, they are scope-in-the-sky! Each fake eyes' pupils are centred in a scope's cross hairs. These eye-drones are clearly scopes, camera and/or weapon, their signals aimed at the tree-of-life, a white beacon in the distance. 

That the tree provides perspective is indicative of hope. 

Fake Eyes-In-The-Sky is another dronescape, plus it is a cosmicscape. Apart from being an exploration of contemporary weaponised technology, it is also a landscape. 


My last post was called Seeing Through the Fake Window
You might also like to read The Drone: Do Not Embody


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