By James Bridle.
Cloud Index is a series of simulations: a weather forecast for possible futures. The simulations depict proposed cloud structures which correspond to measured electoral scenarios. These are dreams of the weather, hallucinated by machines. If we wish to change the future, we must change the weather. First: a binary choice. To leave, or to remain. Cloud Index is commissioned by Serpentine Galleries.
The Cloud Index was created by analysing over 15,000 satellite images of weather patterns, and correlating them to seven years of polling data leading up to the UK’s 2016 EU referendum. This analysis was performed by machine learning: a neural network, which mimics the structure of the brain and can develop an understanding of large volumes of data. Neural networks are heavily employed in many advanced fields today, from medical research to social network analysis, and from generating news stories to playing the stock market. The ultimate goal of such networks is to gather and analyse sufficient volumes of data that we can predict, and ultimately control, the future.
Marshall McLuhan wrote: “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us”. But how we understand our tools shapes us too. This is technology: an understanding of the techniques and processes which shape the world. This understanding is not binary: rather it presumes movement and flow. It is an evolving and entangled set of understandings, subject to analysis, doubt, change, and re-interpretation.