Interview for Washington Post about Google and "GWEI
Any ideas why GWEI is back in the news lately? I've seen a lot of people talking about it, but there doesn't seem to be any particular news or anything, unless I've missed it!
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PC: It's indeed interesting how the project became viral again after ten years - it seems a mutation of virus, a meme that found a fertile environment for propagating itself.
I think that in the recent years the collective consciousness regarding economic models increased due to the crises and the rising of new business strategies and alternative economy. Nevertheless in the last decade, Internet penetrates a wider demographic of users and Google indeed monopolized most of the Internet Infrastructures.
Then re: the project itself – do you actively monitor it still? (Bank account, Adsense pages, etc.?)
PC: The project ended several years ago. For us it was an artistic experiment that only worked for a few months, I see it as an online performance. In most of my projects there is a time when the hack really exploits the vulnerabilities and backdoors, then it's hard to keep going when the target of the intervention counteracts. During the time of the performance I had several accounts of AdSense disabled while I was generating fraud clicks with my bots, till Google was able to detect me even before opening new accounts, almost in a scary surveillance way. I could keep developing new tricks, but that would have needed full time commitment for an endless war between Google that tries to identify fake clicks and hackers that are always able to improve their bots.
At the time of maximum efficacy we calculated a good rate of money that could be earned, and so shares that could be bought. However at the time we didn't consider that the shares were getting more expensive quickly, nor the significant estimated value of the company. We would have needed hundred of thousands of people joining the program and helping with AdSense accounts, as well as several years to buy the entire company with its own money.
How, if at all, have your motives or theory changed since 2005?
PC: After all, Google already ate itself. It became so big and influential that it could be considered the Internet itself. The money it generates is invested and used in the same economy, till it reproduces itself in a circular auto-referential model. This is normal for large industries that are able to fully control the markets in which they operate. However, history and democracy should remind us that media conglomerate aren't healthy for society as a whole. For instance the poor technological development of Internet that we are experiencing is an indicator of the negative consequences of this cartel. In fact the Internet has't improved its security and decentralization, which should be its natural evolution.
When we look at Google as a company that provides services of high quality, we should understand that by being a monopoly, Google has been able to hire all the best engineers to work on technologies that are bought and designed for only Google's interest. While the company brands itself subtly as a public service, it's actually taking advantage, exploiting, and privatizing a large quantity of public information and infrastructures.
Besides Google, Facebook and Amazon, what tech companies (or other entities) concern you now – that maybe didn't concern you, or weren't around, in 2005?
PC: I've been developing several new projects regarding the creative economic models. I've just published a project about digital currencies and algorithmic trading and I'm working on a project regarding an economic model for the distribution of revenues of the press industry. For technical and legal reasons I need to keep the details secret before the publication of the project.
In other recent projects I commented on the repercussions of the misuse of global networks in current financial systems. I look especially at the case of multinational firms winning over governments that often fail under the force of the immateriality and ubiquity of cross-border of informational flows. In order to expose these contradictions I focus on monetary policies by using counterfeited VISA credit cards and challenging jurisdictional arbitrage by subverting Cayman Islands offshore structures. These provocative projects empowered the public with tools for the creation and distribution of money and laws.
A lot of both of your work has involved the “dark side” of the Internet, which maybe wasn't so well-understood five or 10 years ago – but which many people are very aware of now. How has that attention impacted your work and your focus, if at all?
PC: The general public's attention to these dark sides of our economy and daily activity are reinforcing the aims and the prepositions of these type of artworks.
As an artist, it's an exciting time, in terms of opportunities for engaging a wide audience with new material, structures and relationships that can affect society with great impact. It's the same power that hackers and whistleblowers have but for art performances. So, individual artists are now able to creatively reconfigure and distribute sensitive information and its social and economic value, which can challenge systems and apparatus for control and dominance. Yet the focus for the artist is not only the political discourse, but the potential to give new forms to the material - producing new relationships. That's why even if these performances unveil truths and lead to social change, they still remain conceptual and don't pursue a final end. Ultimately, they are artistic visions with the aim to inspire people.