anatomy of ai

The content of this article was fascinating, from the visualization at the very beginning, to the multiple stories it told that made up the components of the whole. I appreciated the density of it--any one of the components could have stood on its own as its own visualization-story combination. The overall composition of the article helped me think more in depth about what style of storytelling I want to do with my own MS1 project.

The overall composition was very simple yet effective--no interaction, no parallax/scrolling, no fancy click-effects. Just one overarching visualization at the beginning, the story of an AI system with its origin in Amazon Echo broken into 21 parts, and illustrations spread throughout that reference those in the visualization. They only used one color (a dark purple), and a single font (Arial). And still, there was so much information to be gained from the page, especially with the edition of the footnotes. It made me realize that interaction is not necessary to tell an effective story. I don't need to add interaction for the sake of making my project interesting; I should add it only if I think it will contribute to the effectiveness of what I am trying to communicate.

Though in the back of my mind I knew that there was huge production cost, human labor, and environmental destruction that went into all of the electronic gadgets I owned, I did not realize to what extent. I never really thought about it deeply; but it is also true that it is not advertised openly, as is the case with most production lines. I was generally aware of the unequal distribution of wealth and danger to life across the spectrum of people involved (miners vs Jeff Bezos), but I had never properly given thought to where exactly these rare minerals and metals that make up our electronics originate from.

“Your smart-phone runs on the tears and breast milk of a volcano. This landscape is connected to everywhere on the planet via the phones in our pockets; linked to each of us by invisible threads of commerce, science, politics and power.” Write Liam Young and Kate Davies. I was struck at the poignancy of this statement. There were legends built on the landscape of the Salar de Uyuni; even now, it is a destination for backpackers of South America because of its beauty. And through the excavation of it for lithium for electronics, we contribute to its destruction and monetization.

I read a bit more about the Salar in this paper by Clark and Wallis et al, 2017 ( It states the salar is a potential major source of lithium and contains 50–70 percent of the world’s reserves according to the USGS, and details the legends surrounding the formation of it. It also details how one can detect the rate and effects of climate change by looking at the rock formations surrounding the salar.

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