Stage 9
11:45 - 12:15
We Can Work It Out
We, the Data Workers: Challenging the future of labour

Short thesis

The Institute of Human Obsolescence (IoHO) explores the future of labour in a society that progressively automates tasks previously performed by humans. We are facing unprecedented challenges in our relationship to technology and its new socio-political implications in society. In this talk we will explain how the IoHO challenges those questions through installations, gatherings, research and actions -specifically our most recent line of work exploring human-generated data as a form of labour.


We are being replaced by machines. What happened to horses after the invention of the steam engine, is now happening to us. Soon our manual labour will no longer be needed and with the advance of artificial intelligence, intellectual labour will be replaced by machines as well. The IoHO explores this scenario and tries to ask questions on how to re-position the role of humans by developing new relationships between human and machine and new dynamics of creation of value in a post-work scenario.

In the installation of Biological Labour (2015) we hire human workers to wear a body suit that harvests their residual body heat to produce electricity that then is fed into a microcomputer producing cryptocurrency. With this new form of work we aim at questioning the possible consequences of the combination of invasive technologies with the lack of jobs to be performed by humans.

After our first exploration extracting value from the human body, we are now researching a new path towards understanding the production of data as a form of labour: Human-generated data is a resource already extracted by companies like Google and Facebook producing vast amounts of capital. Why aren’t we, the data-workers, capitalizing from it?

In Data Production Labour (2017) we problematize our relationship with companies like Facebook and their exploitation of invisible labour deriving from our production of data. Through this process we explore different proposals, such as the Data Basic Income on which we ask the question: What does it mean to be unemployed while producing data for companies and therefore producing monetary value, shouldn't we receive a payment for this invisible labour?

Currently we are working on establishing the Data Workers Union, a platform which enables citizens to gain agency and advocate for their data labour rights.