Humans as software extensions

Will You Be My Plugin?

Sebastian Schmieg

Playlists: '34c3' videos starting here / audio / related events

While technology is often described as an extension of our bodies, this talk will explore a reversed relationship: Bodies and minds of digital laborers (you and me and basically everybody else) as software extensions that can be easily plugged in, rewired, and discarded. I will approach this topic from an artist's point of view.

From CAPTCHAS as micro jobs for training AI to people having to pretend to be bots, from gig work to APIs for programming people – we are extending computational systems by offering our bodies, our senses, and our cognition.

To some degree, this has been true for most kind of work for a long time. However, with software creeping into every aspect of our lives, and with algorithmic systems modulating and optimizing flows constantly, being plugged in and then generating data, or being modulated by data analysis, has become ubiquitous (workers never leaving the factory?).

In this talk, I will address the condition of being a software extension within the framework of my artistic practice and research by introducing artworks and discussing e.g. the survival creativity of gig workers on hyper-competitive online platforms; the surveilled workplace; AI as a global assembly line.

Against this backdrop, I will also speculate about possible interventions inside these environments.


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