We tend to identify ourselves with the jobs we do. It is very common to ask “what do you do?” as a communication starter when you meet someone new. Jobs are not only something we do for living, but we define ourselves with it. Some occupations, like police personnel and firefighters, wear uniforms and we identify them with their occupation roles like actors in their roles in theater plays.
The introduction of AI in our workplaces is often discussed with a slight anxiety. Is it going to abolish our jobs? Is it going to replace me in my work? Even with the promise of shorter work hours and eliminating manual labor nobody wants to do, with all the sustainability and economic benefits, we feel uneasy to accept giving up our labor to AI.
What does it mean when we do not have to work anymore? What happens to our identity? Where does this anxiety come from?
Works organized by centralized digital systems are driving our jobs more and more precarious, such as driving for Uber and being a deliverer for food delivery services. It does not look like the technology is bringing us shorter work hours and more free time, but instead it is making our jobs unstable and temporal. Those jobs do not give us satisfaction nor dignity. We do not identify ourselves with these jobs with dignity. It does not require skills nor dexterity. The optimisation is benefitting the industry to optimize the cost, but not for the workers. As these jobs do not pay enough, we are ending up working even longer hours to sustain minimum living standards.
But is this a problem of AI, automation and technology developments? Or is it a political problem that calls for reorganization of our society?
As an artwork, I propose a thought experiment.
I would like to create a series of workwear/uniforms that are equipped with AI that makes decisions for wearers in work situations. Sensors on the uniform detect how she/he moves and feedback to the system so it can make further decisions accordingly. The human wearer become an executor, a body for AI.
We can experiment how it feels to live with AI, how it feels to work with AI, how the decision making of AI impact how you do things, how you incorporate and adjust…