October 16, 2020

Are we are all going to be working for a smart machine, or will we have smart people round the machine?

Penny Anderson

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Sculpture/InstallationEnargeia Arcade (Maypole), 202020 cm x10 cm

The question resonated when I spotted a delivery driver asleep in their car. I borrowed from Shoshana Zuboff’s ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’. I am interested in precarious employment, short term-contracts and billionaires. I write this as a new lockdown seems likely, observing drivers delivering whimsies and essential goods, battalions of workers being abused, and during lockdown often the only face I saw, including a driver familiar to me asleep in their car between shifts. I showed them the ‘Smart machine…’ mirror. They heartily concurred that the people were smart but the ‘machine’ and algorithms controlling their life were cold, with workers being treated as toys and their lives a cruel and complex game. Workers controlled by the ‘machine’ are not only smart, but helpful, warm, and denied proper holidays, sacked without rights. Their every movement tracked, warehouse staff are scared to take breaks and piss into bottles. I am disabled, and can’t easily explore shops. Unable to avoid Amazon, feeling like a hypocrite wishing I could, and think we all should. I endeavoured to learn names, greet them gratefully and always to be polite; apparently this is rare. They inspired my work for the past year.