Kate Crawford – Atlas of AI, Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence


Yale University Press, ISBN-13: 978-0300209570, English, 336 pages, 2021, USA

This is meant to be a conceptual atlas of Artificial Intelligence with all the context it deserves, far beyond the projections of our fascination with autonomous thinking machines. It is not easy to debunk the seductive propaganda of the AI industry. Arguments can become cryptic, technical explanations or lead to seemingly ideologically-based polarisation. Crawford, however, accomplishes this task brilliantly by exploring a number of crucial issues. How can we understand AI without considering the extraction of lithium and rare earth metals, the problematic epistemology used to classify digital objects or the inherent biases in machine learning algorithms? She tactically exposes the materiality of what we call artificial intelligence, as some artists have done recently, and issues a call to “challenge the structures of power that AI currently reinforces”. Behind this is meticulous research that reveals how and where AI infrastructure is built, paradoxically, it requires an enormous human workforce to function. Ultimately, AI’s supposed neutrality and universality are questioned, and it is made clear that it still serves the interests of Silicon Valley. Like Crawford’s collaborations with Trevor Paglen and Vladan Joler (who also designed the cover and illustrations for the chapter beginnings), this book contextualises AI criticism using an informative and illuminating approach.