The integration of AI in today’s society is developing so rapidly, it is in part becoming our norm. Bringing swift and dramatic changes for a supposed good, AI is being used to tackle racial inequality, diagnose medical conditions like dementia, predict suicide attempts, combat homelessness in the UK and even offer you legal advice—that’s right, an AI lawyer. However, while newer technologies have their undeniably progressive qualities, AI also reminds us of the terrifying reality of a George Orwell 1984-level monitoring as well as its quite clearly evident failings.
Such examples include its potential use in the US to spy on prison inmates, Facebook’s AI racial failure in labelling black men as ‘primates’, the economic exploitation of vocal profiling, its continued inability to distinguish between different people of colour and its worryingly uncontrollable future—to name but a few. This small list of incidents is enough for us to beg the question, should we fear AI? Well, a new fashion brand on the rise seems to think so.
UNLABELED (stylised as all-capitalised) is an incredible and exciting new artist group and textile brand that is shaping fashion’s relationship with AI. Founded in Japan—in collaboration with Dentsu Lab Tokyo—creators Makoto Amano, Hanako Hirata, Ryosuke Nakajima and Yuka Sai have developed what is described as a “camouflage against the machines.” Its specially designed garments are constructed with specific patterns that prevent any AI used in the real world from recognising you. Don’t worry, we’ll break down how this all works, but first, let’s look at why the team decided to create the brand.
The details of the creators’ project—found on the Computational Creativity Lab—divulge the reasoning behind the creation. “Surveillance capitalism is here,” it states, “Surveillance cameras are now installed outside the homes as well as in public places to monitor our activities constantly. The personal devices are recording all personal activities on the internet as data without our knowledge.” In the brand’s accompanying project documentation video found on the same page, it further details how this acquired data on us may be used, “The system transforms our everyday behaviour into data and abuses it for efficiency and pursuit of profit.”
For the creators, “the physical body is not an exception” when it comes to AI exploitation of our data. “With the development of biometric data and image recognition technology for identifying individuals, the information in real space is instantly converted into data,” they write. “Thus, our privacy is threatened all the time. In [this] situation, what does the physical body or choice of clothes mean?” From this question, UNLABELED’s fashion camouflage to evade information exploitation was born.
Showcasing a video example of their garments in action, via the Computation Creativity Lab website, a comparison is shown between two individuals—one wearing the garment and one in normal clothes. “[When] wearing [UNLABELED’s] particular garments, AI will hardly recognise the wearer as ‘human’, [while] …….