The first time Google's photographs were shouted, it was a blow that surprised me.
One morning in April, I looked up my phone that resigned and found more news about the misfortunes of the world. Instead, there was a notice of a photo that warned me that Google Image Processing robots had created some kind of collection with my videos. I've already seen such videos produced with artificial intelligence – what Facebook makes from your annual summary is a recurring accident – so I did not expect much. Then I pressed the playback and for thirty seconds it was ruin, with a long and teary face.
He saw my five-year-old daughter, Samara: almost every moment she was awake, she marked me in a thorough and permanent fashion, her father being obsessed with cameras. My obsession has created an archive nightmare; Videos and photos of Samara and her elder brother Halil, both born in the era of smartphones, are now crossing several terabytes – more pictures than a man can have time to scrutinize. One could ask, why record all those moments?
Well, in this simple two-minute collection, Google Photos allowed me to see the insight into the answer.
Google computers can recognize faces, even those who are aging. It looks like Google Photos also understands the tone and emotional value of human interactions, things like smiles, nervous cues, frowns, raptures, dancing joys and even fragments of a dialogue like "Happy Birthday!" or "Well done!" In synchronized Hollywood movie music, the result was an assembly where events that were obviously important – birthday, school performances – were mixed with dozens of ordinary moments of joy from childhood.
She was a baby Samara when her hair was cut off when she took several walking steps; Samara when she was young when she played with her brother, when she fought with him, when she bravely caught her in her swimming bench; Samara is already in the preschool while eating a pizza on a journey by car, when she threw the tongue on the camera. I can not post the video here; It would be like displaying your diary. However, if Samara had ever been the president of her classroom at a kindergarten, Google video could be equivalent to Man Clipton's video-film Man and Hope and win the triumph.
That's what I mean when I talk about the "shock that surprised me": who would believe the software would scare him? Pictures on Instagram and Snapchat can move you every day, but Google Photos is not a social network; It's a personal network, a service that started three years ago, whose goal was essentially to function as a database to find our private collection of private photos, and a service that mainly runs machines, not other people who publish things I love .
And, in spite of everything, the technology I regularly use, Google Photos has become one of the most relevant in emotional terms. This is remarkable, not only because of the degree of usefulness it has, but because it has eliminated any headache that caused the storage and search of tsunami photos that we all produce. Additionally, Google Photos is remarkable because it provides an opportunity to understand yourself through a photo.
With its intense focus on structuring through artificial intelligence, Google Photos suggest the beginning of a new era of personalized robot historians. The images of images taken by everyone will become raw material for algorithms that will organize memories and build narratives about the most intimate human experiences. In the future, robots will know everything about us and talk our stories.
However, we are ahead in front of us. Before you care about the science fiction of tomorrow, it's worth astonishing the basic utility that Google currently has. Technological companies have tried to create mechanisms for managing digital photographs since we started throwing film rolls. Most efforts failed; While our cameras are improving, we take more photos, and the more photos we shoot, the less we are able to organize the warehouse.
"By finding mobile devices, nobody did anything, absolutely nothing, that they did not even show in the picture," said Martin Hand, sociologist at King's University, Kingston, Ontario, and author of "Ubikuitous Photographi" Academic research on a happy problem too many photos. "But it created its own problems: it became a huge question."
More than a decade ago, in the world of technology, there was a partial solution to overload photos: the creation of images became socially. Through services like Flickr, then Facebook and Instagram, we tried to organize images by making others do it for us. The best photos were those that had the highest ratings in your social profile; worst, the ones you did not publish.
However, social networks have created yet another set of problems: there was fear that it would be omitted, a sense of performative anxiety, loneliness, and erosion of privacy. "There was a sense in who, because everything was public, the young people had to constantly edit a public idea about themselves," said Ruka.
In the same way, Google tried to participate in a social photo game. The first incarnation of Google photo was part of Google Plus, the social network of the search company that closed the site and closed it. A few years ago, after he realized that social networks were not his forte, Google returned to the design table using Google Images.
Its restored service did three things: it offered almost unlimited and free storage for your photos (you can pay more to keep your images stored in sizes with better resolution). I put them in the cloud, so you can have access to them anywhere. And, most importantly, photographs could depend on Google's false artificial intelligence to solve what the company perceived as a key problem in the mobile phone era: the fact that we can all take pictures, but rarely we see them
"We realized that you will never feel or remember any of those moments," said Anil Sabharval, Google's vice president, who led the team that built Fotos and is still in charge of it. "You went on a wonderful vacation, you took hundreds of incredible photos, last year and you never saw them again."
When it started in 2015, Google Photos released it immediately. For example, Face Detection enabled automatic sharing of photos. Now, when I paint my children, Google recognizes them and shares these photos with their wife; Your pictures are shared with me. In an incredible way, instantaneously and without thinking about it, everyone has a complete collection of photographs of our children, and the impatience of their keeping disappears.
Then we have Google's daily reminders to remember. It's hard to exaggerate when I mention that good Google machines will dig into your collection and find new things that could get you stunned. In a series called "Before and After", Google will find images of the same person or group of people in similar poses in two different periods: your kids on the first day of the school this year and the same day last year, or a photo you made in front of the Empire State building before ten years and today.
Last month, Google launched a new Home Hub, a voice activation device featuring a screen displaying endless slideshows with this kind of nostalgic bait. It's magical. I was with Home Hub for more than a week and he deeply changed my experience with my photos. They have acquired their own life.
How many memories organized through artificial intelligence shape our stories about ourselves.
And, despite costing me to stop using Google Photos, I'm a little scared of what promises for the future. There is a lot of research in the social sciences that shows how photography changes our memories in a significant way. The study showed that when we take a picture without thinking about our ability to remember the events in the world around us is reduced. Photos also shape the perception we have about ourselves, to the point of creating new memories: a false image can convince you that something happened even if it never happened.
Taking all this into account, I take care of how much memory organized through artificial intelligence shapes our narratives about ourselves. I mean Samara – and children like her – will one day see videos like what Google did about her, and she will draw some conclusions about her childhood just because some machines of profitable companies that receive advertising from advertising brought decisions about what scenes they will show and which will be hidden.
At this time, there is still no harm: Google Photos videos are happy and great. However, if the story depends on who is telling you, Google Photos leads us to a new site.
Today, machines are increasingly understanding our human world and creating our reality in the most advanced way, and, like the camera itself, inevitable.