Inverse Surveillance AI Hackathon 2021

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This hackathon is part of the Inverse Surveillance AI research project.

Hackathon Challenge: With your help we can demonstrate the potential of Inverse Surveillance AI —> using AI to surveil governments and bigger organizations to identify and predict wrongful behavior or systematic flaws and by doing so empower citizens.

Everyone is welcome to join. (Individuals & Teams)
This includes students, researchers, professionals, etc.

What to Expect

The hackathong consists of two parts:
1. One month of preparation time (starting October 15, 2021)
2. Hackathon Weekend (19-20-21 November, 2021)

Online, via Discord, English, CET (UTC+1h)

Those with other obligations are not required to join all hackathon events, as long as you submit your code before the deadline.

1. Concept for Inverse Surveillance AI
2. Proof of Concept of Inverse Surveillance AI
3. A (video) pitch explaining your Proof of Concept

You can download the full Hackathon briefing in the link below. Here you can find a full description, the challenge expectation, guiding questions, Prices, Elaborate Timeline & Schedule, etc.

Timeline & Schedule

  • Preparation Month – Friday 15 Oct. – Friday 19 Nov.
    You are allowed to prepare your concept and write code
  • Pe-Hackathon Week – Friday 12 Nov. – Friday 19 Nov.
    • Q&A Session: Friday 12 Nov., 18:00-19:00 CET (UTC+1h)
  • Hackathon Day 1 – Friday 19 Nov. (18:30 – 20:30)
  • Hackathon Day 2 – Saturday 20 Nov. (09:00-18:00)
  • Hackathon Day 3 – Sunday 21 Nov. (09:00-18:30)
    • 15:00 CET (UTC+1h) Submit code, and (video) pitch

Join and make a difference!

Your Proof of Concept, in combination with the theoretical research and expert interview podcasts will serve as a launchpad for future research and work into the topic of Inverse Surveillance AI.

Inverse Surveillance offers a new pespective on the dynamic between citizens and bigger organisation and governments. AI makes this dynamic feasible. Inverse Surveillance AI can empower citizens and turn them into auditors keeping bigger organisations and goverments in check, and by doing so democratize technology in the process.

Your proof of concept has the power to demonstrate the potential of Inverse Surveillance AI and get this idea rolling.

Sign-Up & Questions

For sign-ups you can e-mail Juliette van der Laarse at or contact her through LinkedIn

Two Examples for Inverse Surveillance

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Authors: J.P.R. van der Laarse & N.L. Neuman
Publication Date: September 24, 2021

Here we provide some metaphors as examples to better illustrate Inverse Surveillance. These metaphors are a representation of how we see inverse surveillance in comparison to other forms of surveillance and sousveillance at this moment in time. Throughout this project we aim to continue to refine this concept, and more clearly describe the differences between the different forms of veillance. 

Defining Surveillance

We use the terms surveillance and sousveillance as stand-alone concepts in these metaphors, based on the consensus within academic research. But surveillance could also be seen as an umbrella term for all activities. And the same is true for the term sousveillance with respect to all surveillance activities carried out by citizens, including inverse surveillance. 

The definitions used in these metaphors are based on our framework for inverse surveillance research. Prof. Steve Mann, the author on sousveillance, uses a broad veillance framework for veillances that encompasses surveilllance, sousveillance, inverse surveillance and other veillance concepts. He made the case for using veillance as the umbrella term instead of surveillance, which has different connotations.

1) Police Officer vs. Auditor

Inverse surveillance is by definition not anti-government in a dystopian sense, but pro-government from a utopian stance. Inverse surveillance provides citizens with leverage for holding a government accountable, which ought to be considered a positive effect in a functioning democratic society. For the Panopticon effect to work, there needs to be some level of threat. However, citizens will not take the role of a police officer, who issues fines based on criminal behaviour, and exercises power. Rather, citizens using inverse surveillance AI will essentially fulfill the role of an auditor. Auditors are also within their right to assess, correct, and sometimes enforce norms under the threat of specific consequences.However, an auditor is different from a police officer, since auditors report, while offering organizations also an opportunity for improvement. An auditor can be seen as an additional means of control to check that everything is running as it should within an organisation according to some normative framework. Despite the strict monitoring role of auditors, in which they directly hold organizations accountable for their behavior, independent auditors are frequently hired by organizations themselves to monitor their business and operations to ensure that they have everything in order when a formal audit occurs. This dynamic of organizations reaching out to auditors for help in auditing their systems and contributing ideas for improvement is exactly the kind of relationship our Inverse Surveillance project aims to stimulate between citizens and governments or other large /organizations. 

2) School examination

This metaphor relates to the different forms of veillance, and aims to illustrate the differences.

Surveillance: A teacher walks around during an exam to check if students are cheating. This is a form of power from above.

Counter-Surveillance: A student sits behind a pillar during an exam in protest, or sets their table up so that the teacher cannot perceive them properly. Whether the student cheats or not is irrelevant. The focus is on evading surveillance by the teacher. 

Sousveillance: The teacher walks past the tables and a student addresses their behaviour. For example, “Sir/Madam, I keep seeing you walking past the tables of students of colour. This is a form of discrimination”. The teachers’ surveillance is being observed and reported by a student.

Inverse Surveillance: The teacher walks past the students making their exam, without the students paying attention to it. Surveillance is part of this process and the students are not necessarily concerned about it. However, the students have set up a student council to evaluate the teachers and school system. Are they working fairly? What exactly is being surveilled? Have any processes crept in that lead to, for example, occurrences of racism? Or are there patterns that can be identified that indicate corruption? 

Podcast: Creativity and Constraint in Artificial and Biological Intelligence

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The Brain Inspired podcast approached us for a conversation about Creativity and Constraint in Biological and Artificial Intelligence. We cover generating art with neural networks, AI’s challenges for neuroscience, and how the infamous frame problem in AI traces all the way back to Plato.

Listen to it on iTunes, Spotify, or below:

Brain Inspired podcast 062 Stefan Leijnen: Creativity and Constraint

Artistic Style Transfer Blending

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Transferring the style from one image to another has been done plenty of times before and has gotten a fair bit media coverage lately. One thing we considered was the possibility of not just transferring the style from one image, but combining the styles of multiple images and transferring those; style transfer blending. After throwing around a few ideas, the thought came around of combining two images of different styles and feeding that to existing style transfer applications. The results where quite interesting…

These are some of the input images we used for the various style combinations:


We used three style permutations, each style being a compound of two input images. We tested each combined style on these three different images:


And here are some of the results after 200 iterations:


There is definitely some potential in combining styles and transferring them to content. It may proof useful to designers looking for inspiration, providing a more diverse and bigger set of suggestions.