My first work of art, hunter hunter was conceived between Slovenia’s vote to secede from Yugoslavia, and when the war started. Despite the trillions spent on what is euphemistically called “defense,” no one seemed to know how to stop a war that everyone knew was about to happen.
hunter hunter was a semi-serious effort to solve this problem; a simple algorithmic embodiment of a moral precept. Using three microphones and a microcontroller, it was able to 1) triangulate loud sounds in 3D space, 2) use a neural network to classify the sound, and 3) if the sound was a gunshot, and then aim its 8mm canon in that direction and fire back, all in under two seconds.
Having just turned 20, I was referring to a few trends I was starting to notice in the field of technology. First, where I was buying the sorts of things that an art student could afford, in tech surplus stores, many of the things for sale were military surplus. Even the microchips I wanted to buy new had a “milspec” rating. I was also starting to read about the history of computers, many designed to calculate artillery trajectories or model nuclear explosions. And, in this time of Ronald Reagan, more than half an American’s tax dollar went to the DOD. Our military bands received more than the National Endowment for the Arts.
Of course, image consultants had long before renamed the military as “defense,” but the industry mostly concentrates on weapons rather than fortifications. As Yugoslavia plowed toward armed conflict, the question was more often framed as “should the West arm Croatia?” rather than “how do we prevent bloodshed?”
Decades on, I now know much more about the constant and inseparable links between technology, war, and social control, but I’m still at a loss for why we accept such a completely dysfunctional, evil system.