“What would it mean for humans to live in a world where a large percentage of stories, melodies, images, laws, policies and tools are shaped by non-human intelligence, which knows how to exploit with superhuman efficiency the weaknesses, biases and addictions of the human mind — while also knowing how to form intimate relationships with human beings?” This question posed by historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari in a 2023 New York Times oped is pushing daily towards reality. He suggests that humanity has already had our first encounter with AI in the form of social media algorithms, and the score is AI: 1, humanity: 0.

This work explores the myriad of ways modern algorithms shape our lives and our world, as told through the story of user annalynn36, known as “Anna”. Narrated by a machine, its unwavering demeanor and commanding guidance dictate every choice and every value. The dispassionate voice contends against a passionate, introspective rendition of Debussy’s Clair de Lune. Accompanying the struggle, annalynn36 is incrementally shaped along the path of the algorithm’s inscrutable computations.

Mirroring the imperceptibly slow zoom of the camera, we scarcely notice when our experiences become alienated from our physical reality. Then, one day, we look around, and suddenly realize that we are Anna, trapped in a vast grid of other Annas, enslaved to a future devoid of the things that make us human. We believe that so long as we, humans, cannot learn to be masters of our technological tools, regulations alone will not save us from the breakneck speed of the changing world.

With this ominous visual representation, we hope to urge our fellow humans to reclaim our lives, our values, our humanness, and take a clear-eyed look around before time runs out.

The imagery is generated using a combination of AI-powered Stable Diffusion and human-powered digital compositing, with 3D animation produced in Blender. The narration is human-written, computer narrated, and Clair de Lune is self-recorded by artist on a piano.

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