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It’s a job, but not as you know it: the future of work

A nanny state governed by artificial intelligence (AI). An economy that privileges access over ownership. A world where advancements in technology have surpassed the need for human labour. These alternative futures are the focus of the ‘Future of Work’, a new interactive exhibition launching at UTS.

The exhibition is a collaboration between current and former students of the UTS Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation (BCII) and the xFutures Lab, which brings together research, teaching and industry engagement outcomes from the Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation (FTDi).

“The premise for the exhibition emerged from the Envisioning Futures subject in the BCII,” says xFutures co-founder and FTDi scholarly teaching fellow Dr Susanne Pratt.

“Students were asked to think about the future of work, both the dark sides and the dreams, desires, hopes and aspirations that people have about their future lives.”

Imagining the impacts of transformative technologies

The result is three compelling, interactive and bleakly humorous artworks – Open Office, Oracle Analytica and Leisureland – that examine our relationship with emerging technologies and their potentially transformative impact on the way we work.

“Open Office looks at the sharing economy and some of the implications of access over ownership. It’s a really immersive experience that starts to challenge people’s assumptions around utopian ideals around the sharing economy by asking them to think about some of the darker sides as well,” Dr Pratt says.

“In contrast, Oracle Analytica, which is set in the year 2060, is all about artificial intelligence. You have this setup of a job interview and you’re being hired by a firm that’s led by AI and you’re being interviewed by AI and they’re looking for a human employee quota, so it’s a diversity hire for humans.”

“Leisureland is set within a future where we start to think about emerging trends like advances in technology, the different roles of human labour and questions around basic income and what that might mean.”

Creativity, invention, complexity

Students developed the initial concepts for the exhibition as part of their BCII studies, and then worked with the xFutures team to expand the scale of the original pieces in preparation for the exhibition.

The project incorporated many of the key components of the BCII – critical and creative thinking, invention, complexity, innovation and future scenario building – and gave students a unique opportunity to work on a pressing, complex and future-oriented problem.

It also mirrored many of the critical themes that sit at the heart of the xFutures Lab, which explores alternative futures as a tool for making better decisions in the present with a focus on responsible innovation and value-sensitive design.

Tech trends – and consequences

“Our work at xFutures Lab is about creating spaces to allow people to feel the impacts and potential consequences of emerging technologies such as AI, automation or biotech, and to think about the social, political, economic and environmental consequences of those different trends,” Dr Pratt says.

Future of Work is part of the Creative Industries Knowledge Hub, a partnership between UTS and the NSW Government. The exhibition will run from March 7–March 28 at UTS Startups, which is situated in the Ultimo creative industries and startup precinct.

Event details:
Open until March 28 (only on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday)

UTS Startups
Level 1, UTS Building 15
622-632 Harris Street, Ultimo
Register to attend.

If you have any questions, please contact the xFutures Lab team here.

Open Office
Artists: Kevin Millingham, Hannah Maher, Isabella Brown, and Ben Draper.

Oracle Analytica
Artists: Maddie Cartmer Matt Byers, Lana Hodgkinson, Juliette Kidston-Lattari, and Delayne Sternbeck-Rutter.

Artists: Emily Mundzic, Francine Crimmins, Llewellyn Thomas, and Sophie Weston.

xFutures Lab
Barbara Doran, Giedre Kligyte, Claire Marshall, Susanne Pratt, and Nicole Vincent.

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