A/D/O by MINI | Catalog for the Post-Human

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Catalog for the Post-Human

Human-enhancement tools for the nomadic employees of AI-controlled corporations feature in this conceptual-satirical project by Chicago studio Parsons & Charlesworth.

Imagine a near-future world in which humans have been reduced to data components and are employed at the mercy of algorithm-led corporations. In this scenario, envisioned by designers Tim Parsons and Jessica Charlesworth as part of their research into the future of work, the nomadic contractors would rely on enhancement equipment to aid their performance and help generate the maximum amount of capital. Taking a look at society today, this shouldn’t be hard to picture.

Catalog for the Post-Human products include the Best Selfer, a digital life-coach meets astrologist.

Areas of investigation for Parsons & Charlesworth around the future of work – a topic also explored in an exhibition at A/D/O last year – included the gig economy, AI, wellness, and cognitive enhancing drugs. Their research informed the development of Catalog for the Post-Human: a conceptual company that would market and sell products that relate to these and other fields.

“The title refers to a fictional organization of the near future that caters to the demands and expectations of nomadic contractors and their employers in an increasingly technologically oriented society,” said the studio.

The FluxAi tool allows users to train non-bias into their AI systems.

Parsons & Charlesworth then came up with a set of six items that Catalog for the Post-Human would sell to fulfil the different requirements considered advantageous in their imagined society. Each is based on trends and behaviors that are already developing in real life, but takes the ideas a step further towards the absurd.

“The project attempts to satirize the contemporary capitalist need to be permanently cognitively sharp, quantifying yourself with data, and able to work the long and irregular hours assigned by algorithm-led corporations,” the studio said.

The NootDial sets of pills help achieve an optimum cognitive state.

The first of the six products, named Best Selfer, is “kind of a life-coach meets astrologist” that collates personal data and advises the user based on the analytics. The digital tool’s insights and predictions could help guide daily activities or carve out a longer-term career path.

The FluxAi tool allows users to train non-bias into their AI systems – which Parsons & Charlesworth predict will become key counterparts to human employees in future work environments. “By creating the most objective and trustworthy AI, the more reliable and hire-able a nomadic contractor becomes,” they said.

ClickBaitWear takes the Influencer phenomenon to the extreme in the form of an LED-covered helmet.

To achieve an optimum cognitive state, the NootDial sets of pills are intended to “stimulate neurons and increase blood and oxygen flow to the brain.” Based on the marketed effects of drugs like Adderall and Ritalin, the various cocktails of performance enhancers – organized in a disc-shaped dispenser – are designed to keep workers performing at their most productive for as long as possible.

ClickBaitWear takes the Influencer phenomenon to the extreme, in the form of an LED-covered helmet intended to be monetized as an advertising display. A wearer could earn simultaneous revenue streams by working their other gig-economy jobs while geo-targeted ads play automatically on their heads.

MorningRitual provides an easy and safe way to microdose LSD.

In line with a growing interest in microdosing LSD, and research that says psychedelics can help to boost effort, MorningRitual provides an easy way to measure and take it in small, safe amounts. The apparatus also lets users track their intake, to avoid an “embarrassing macrodose,” and creates a ritual that could replace coffee consumption.

Finally, for a healthier microbiome – a key element in wellness culture – probiotic soil lollipops named Mycopops should enhance the gut’s natural defenses by increasing resistance to bacteria found in the dirt. “With the backdrop of spurious wellness companies such as Goop, this object is intended to ride the line between sounding attractive and disgusting,” said Parsons & Charlesworth.

Probiotic soil lollipops named Mycopops should enhance the gut’s natural defenses.

All of these imagined products offer an insight into current work-life culture, reflecting on our relationships with technology and with ourselves. An incredible amount of detail is included in the project, down to materials or ingredients that would be used to make the products. To present the prototype items, Parsons & Charlesworth has housed them within individual vitrines as part of a mock vending machine, supported by a blue frame and base, and operated by a digital interface. 

“By illustrating the kinds of products that future nomadic contractors might be encouraged to use, presented in the retail context in which they might be obtained, the work prompts the viewer to form a critical perspective on how technology is applied within consumer objects and its wider ethical impact upon society,” said the studio.

The conceptual products are presented in a mock vending machine.

Most of us probably won’t be ingesting soil lollipops or microdosing LSD before work just yet, or any time soon. But the ideas behind each of Parsons & Charlesworth’s products should spark curiosity about how we currently enhance our daily performance, and how that might snowball in increasingly tech-focused and nomadic work environments.

Catalog for the Post-Human is on show as part of the Designs for Different Futures exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which runs until March 8, 2020.

This article forms part of a series on Nomadic Design, one of four curatorial themes that A/D/O is exploring in 2020.

Text by Dan Howarth.

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