Global judgements and ideas.

The Quantified Worker

I was priviledged to be invited by Ghislaine Boddington and Ruth Amos to FutureFest 2016. I can confidently say that the weekend was one of the most interesting of 2016 for me. The themes were love, work, play, and thrive and in each stream I heard excellent talks about everything from body augmentation, synthetic emotions and cyberathletics to the future being most definitely female. I absolutely intend to go again next year.

Ghislaine invited me to appear on one of the opening stages on the first day of this outstanding event, namely the Implant Party with Hannes Sjoblad . The CEO of Nesta, Geoff Mulgan and Nesta’s Jessica Bland were implanted with programmable microchips on stage, which was a pretty remarkable sight. Hannes asked the audience (800 seats) whether anyone would in principle be open to being microchipped as part of a convenience incentive-think of the time saved not searching through one’s handbag/pockets/drawers for such things as keys, bank cards, swipe cards for work or the gym… the possibilities are endless! Nearly half the audience raised their hands. A self-selected bunch, indeed, given the weekend’s content, but I was still quite impressed at this response. Frankly, I’m not sure I would be so bold, though the temptation is there. Speaking of temptation, Hannes owns a Pavlok which he kindly let me wear for a while-on one condition: that I allow him to shock me using the app on his phone. Hannes promised to zap me if I messed up my lines on stage. Talk about an incentive-that thing weirdly, works, to eliminate temptation or provide instant responses to one’s behaviour!

After the live implants were done and dusted (well, mopped up), I rose from my stool to give a monologue I called the Quantified Worker. I was dressed as a quantified worker and I wore most of the devices I refer to in the monologue. The huge slides on both sides of the Imagine stage showed images of the devices, likewise.

The video of the Implant Party should be available soon on Nesta’s website. For now, here is the text of my monologue.

The market for enterprise wearable devices which includes industrial and healthcare wearables is set to grow from $21 million in 2013 to $9.2 billion by 2020. 

13 million self tracking devices are predicted to be incorporated into employee programmes by 2019.

But since the early 20C my work has been measured.

I was managed by time and motion.

I was the scientifically calculated worker. Only fatigue stood in the way of the ‘one best way’ (a la Gilbreths) for productivity and efficiency.

Now, I am the quantified worker, managed through intimate devices, sensors that track my health, steps, sleep, my states of mind, arousal and performance.

I am the construction worker.

My heartrate is monitored for my health and safety.

I am the warehouse worker.

I stock and send you your orders… before a drone does it instead of me, of course.

My toilet breaks, and my mistakes, are documented.

I am surveilled. I am disposable. I am possibly automated, probably hyperemployed.

I am the professional office worker.

My movements around the office, my tone of voice, my arm gestures while communicating, are recorded by a sociometric solution.

My activities are monitored, my productivity measured.

My time is rescued by software.

But the more my manager knows about me, the more my manager owns me, right?

Can I have a gameful, gainful life with the help of new technologies in this new world of work?

Or is the future of work controlled, is the new world of work a prison?

The Head of the World Economic Forum calls the Fourth Industrial Revolution the ‘fusion of technologies that is blurring the line between the physical, digital and biological spheres’. My research looks at the ways new technologies in workplaces create new pressures for workers.





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This entry was posted on September 21, 2016 by .
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