Thursday, May 23, 2019


Five Eyes and the Rest Gouache on paper 56 x 76 cm

The Five Eyes is an intelligence alliance of five countries - Australia, USA, UK, Canada and New Zealand. Its formation stems from a post World War 2 "multilateral agreement for co-operation in signals intelligence (SIGINT), known as the UKUSA Agreement" signed in March 1946. Initially the agreement included the UK and the USA. Canada joined in 1948, and Australia and New Zealand in 1956. You can read more about its history HERE *

I am interested in the use of the word 'eyes', which in the post-war period meant that intelligence gathered by the five countries was for their 'eyes' only. One can assume that this meant human eyes. 

21St Century 'Vision'
In the 21st century, an age of accelerating developments in digital and cyber technology, networking and inter-connectivity, 'eyes' and 'vision' have taken on different kinds of meaning. Both have been assigned to the machine eg: the unmanned aerial vehicle or airborne militarised drone, satellites, machine learning/vision. The unmanned drone, for example, is often referred to as an 'eye in the sky'. Imaging technology used for surveillance and targeting is referred to as 'machine vision', 'drone vision'. Additionally, as autonomous systems, employing artificial intelligence and machine learning are increasingly employed, scrutiny of data and images for anomalies and patterns is no longer entirely the domain of the human being. That self learning systems can potentially also make 'decisions' based on algorithmic scrutiny begs the questions, where does the human being fit as a critical observer? 

The 21st century concept of vision, is increasingly one of detection, scoping and targeting. This is a concern, because human vision is not only seeing with eyeball and pupil, it is also daydreaming, using imagination, dreaming, and visionary thinking. Plus, we can detect, scope and target too! Jean Baudrillard's observation that "the real vanishes into the concept" helps us think about the implications of endowing machines with capacities of 'vision'. (1) Are we orchestrating our own disappearance? Are we being expelled, as Baudrillard implies, from an artificial world? 

Five Eyes and the Rest

In Five Eyes and the Rest I have used a cosmic perspective. From this perspective can you see any anomalies or patterns that might raise questions about increasingly persistent and pervasive machinic surveillance? Who or what is looking at who or what? 

With your eyes what do you see? I see 'eyes' everywhere! 



* Information about Canada's plans can be found HERE, New Zealand's HERE

Information about the UK's Reaper Drones can be found HERE
I have previously written about Australia's use of drones and future plans Pay Attention: The Drones Are Here
And, the USA's development and use of surveillance and weaponised drones is common knowledge

1. Jean Baudrillard, Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?, trans, Chris Turner ( Seagull Books, London, New York, Calcutta, 2016), 12.

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