Algorithmic explores societal anxieties about a post-work future, responding to developments in automation that are displacing human labour. The simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) algorithms used by automated devices, such as self-driving cars, also enabled the 3D-scanning of the human subjects in the installation. Their human forms have been transformed into electronic devices, with lights and blue wires instead of organs and veins. In their precarity, they are analogous to the state of employment today. When navigating the space, the varied placement of the figures reinstates the viewer’s bodily awareness, which is often lost in our prevailing relationships with technology. As the viewer’s eyes adjust to the space, the viewer encounters images of new automated devices that metaphorically close in on the service sector, as one machine replaces the repetitive actions of many labourers. These images act as surrogates for a future that slowly reveals itself through the passage of time.
There are five automated devices depicted: a self-checkout, a self-driving car, a robotic vacuum cleaner, a conveyor belt, and a high-speed hamburger-making machine. Each device corresponds to one of the service sector positions depicted. As self-checkouts are introduced at retail locations, the need for paid cashiers declines. Instead of hiring waiters, profitable sushi restaurants are implementing conveyor belt systems, while Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are creating machines that can prepare food faster than people. Already, robotic vacuum cleaners are available for purchase, with further innovations in automatic cleaning on the horizon. Once self-driving cars are available to the public, transportation workers will also be displaced.
By improving productivity, these automated devices have the ability to generate great wealth, which could be redistributed in the form of universal basic income policies. Unless we begin to plan for the effects of increasing automation, the competition for fewer available positions will increase, resulting in a population that is increasingly willing to accept low-paid, precarious work.