A particular understanding of empowerment lies at the root of research into robotics and artificial intelligence. Freedom can, apparently, be engineered. Our cities, our houses, our surfaces are integrating automation so that we may purportedly become more autonomous. The all-encompassing digitization of everyday life currently underway still carries the holistic, just, and humanistic promise of a previous generation, yet the tendencies of its contemporary manifestations increasingly cast doubt on its fulfillment. Automated technologies have been deployed throughout the social and economic sphere since the dawn of modernity, obscuring a common emancipatory horizon by means of a double bind: by giving and taking, liberating and ensnaring, alleviating and obliging. Technological development has an inherently uncertain future, which places focus on the agents and mechanisms of its progress. Opportunity is not destiny, and history, as we know, can go any which way.

Machines have, we should not forget, long been a figure of the human, an analogue through which we can reflexively learn what it means to be human. Yet contemporary technology seems to have abandoned an ocular ethos of indexical referentiality in favor of a prismatic attitude of uncanny exuberance, challenging inherited epistemic foundations of knowledge, truth, certainty, value, and belief. The portraits being algorithmically manufactured today feel more real not because we give more to work with, but because more can be taken without our notice. Yet if we look beyond the self-image projected onto our retinas and focus our eyes on the surface of technology, what we can see is, at least upon first glance, a picture of the human at work. With the progressive advance of automation into dimensions of life previously unthought, relieving us of duties never before conceived of as such, technology has begun to map out and define the conceptual terrain of labor. We are the frontier. Have we not always been though?

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Mariana Silva

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12 essays
Robotics has an anthropomorphic obsession. We build robots in the image of ourselves, but think of them more as objects that manipulate other...
There are two main methods to build the concrete core of a tower. The more usual one consists of building one floor at a time with formwork that...
There has been an excess of modesty in the feminist agendas of recent decades. Carol A. Stabile is amongst those who have been critical of an...
Simone C. Niquille
Fitter, happier More productive Comfortable Not drinking too much Regular exercise at the gym, three days a week Getting on better...
Julia Powles
In the Italian mid-south, on a spur east of Naples and Mount Vesuvius, there is a small rustic village, Calvanico, ringed by the spectacular...
Intensive incompatibility marks our moment. The multiple crises we face, socially, economically, and ecologically (which are impossible to...
Harald Gruendl
Germany. A town with an industrial park. A medium-sized factory. Heavy rain drumming on the roof for days. Inside, a muffled patter. Markings on...
Andreas Rumpfhuber
The provocation of automation, by whatever technologic means, is not an interface design question. It is not about our experience, or how...
It's a doubtful thing to be in the cultural sway of Venice, especially when you are Montenegrin, like us and our robots. In their 85th...
Science cannot get a decent break these days. Scientists around the world have even taken the unusual step of organizing a "March for Science" (on...
Bruce Wexler
For thousands of years, change and its associated discomforts have been a central feature of human societies and trans-generational struggle....
Nick Axel, Nikolaus Hirsch, Christoph Thun-Hohenstein, Anton Vidokle, and Marlies Wirth
Artificial Labor is a new collaborative project between MAK Wien and e-flux Architecture within the context of the VIENNA BIENNALE 2017 and...
Labor & Work, Technology
Artificial intelligence, Robotics, Automation

Artificial Labor is a collaboration between e-flux Architecture and MAK Wien within the context of the VIENNA BIENNALE 2017 and its theme, “Robots. Work. Our Future."

  • Nick Axel, Nikolaus Hirsch, Christoph Thun-Hohenstein, Anton Vidokle, and Marlies Wirth Editorial
  • Bruce Wexler About Tomorrow
  • Mario Carpo The Alternative Science of Computation
  • Bruce Sterling The Beachcomber of Novi Kotor
  • Andreas Rumpfhuber Housing Labor
  • Harald Gruendl Slaves and Masters
  • Patricia Reed Xenophily and Computational Denaturalization
  • Julia Powles Italy’s New Rural
  • Simone C. Niquille SimFactory
  • Helen Hester Promethean Labors and Domestic Realism
  • åyr I'd rather be outside
  • Axel Kilian Autonomous Architectural Robots
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