Jiewen Wang

The Singularity

The Singularity is a web-based AI narrative system that demonstrates the ethical issues, hidden biases and misbehavior of emerging technologies such as machine learning, face tracking and big data. The system tracks users' eye positions through a webcam, and continuously feeds users directly into their eyes with infinite Reddit posts containing the latest progress in AI along with random news and ads. By visualizing eye trajectories over time, it suggests possible misuses and dangers of all-pervasive data tracking. The near-invisible operations underpinning the technologies could bring visible and fundamental changes to the society, leading the world to a "technological singularity" in which technology governs all aspects of human society.

The work consists of three sub-systems:

1. Infinite news feed system

The system continually scrapes article titles of latest posts about artificial intelligence and technological singularity from subreddit r/singularity and r/artificial. The seemingly uni-directional information flow of news feed is actually bi-directional - user activities are fed back to the machine like in an echo room. Two parallel streams of texts on the screen marks the co-evolution of users and machine systems driven by day-to-day browsing activities.

2. Face-tracking surveillance system

Real-time face tracking algorithm is implemented with ml5js, a machine learning library that runs in the browser. The face position and the degree that the face turns from the webcam are tracked. The direction of floating sentences always points towards users' eyes. When the user looks away by turning the head, the texts will twist and wiggle as if responding to and disobeying user movement. Such suspicious interaction signifies the disobedience of machines and behavior manipulation by malicious algorithms.

3. Data collection and replay system

User's face movement is also recorded, reshaped and replayed by the system. The trajectory of user interaction is visually represented by intertwining curves drawn on top of the texts. When user is absent from the webcam, the visual artifacts become fully visible and reveal those data that have been secretly collected in the background, arousing concerns of user privacy violation in insecure web systems.

I'd like to thank Dr. Anne Sullivan for helpful discussions at class LMC 6310 - Computer as Expressive Medium at Georgia Institute of Technology. The idea of this project originated from a class project. I also learned a lot about data visualization and creative programming in her class. Thanks Josiah Mangiameli for collaborating on early prototypes of this project. The visualization system uses Typode - an interactive experimental font created by typographer Santiago Ortiz. I integrated its source code with some modification.

Visit the online demo HERE Be sure to use a webcam and give browser (preferably Chrome) permission to recode videos. (Without webcam is fine. It will track the mouse position instead)

Special Note: Although the work touches upon data privacy issues, no data is actually collected by the system in the online exhibition. No data is uploaded to anywhere on the Internet. All user data remain on the user's web browser, and is never stored after the session closes.


#FaceTracking #WebInterface