Submissions for the Institute of Patent Infringement

As part of the programme of WORK, BODY, LEISURE, the theme of the Dutch Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2018, The Institute of Patent Infringement invited submissions from everyone interested in merging, reimagining, infringing and hacking existing Amazon patents. The open call emphasised the radical and emancipatory potential inherent in these new technologies to challenge: the hyper individualised and consumption based nature of Amazon’s wider patent filings; the emphasis on efficiency and quantification through data collection inherent in these new technological regimes; labour, social relations and the role of automation within this; the relationship with nature and the environment; unequal global processes of production and distribution; and the affect of these technologies on everyday life.

In collaboration with Paris Selinas.

Exhibitions: Venice Biennale for Architecture 2018, London Design Festival (15th - 23rd Sept), and Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam (16th - 29th Oct). 

The Empathetic Conveyor Belt

The increasing levels of automation in surveillance capitalism provided tools to record and scrutinize the human body, fitting it to its mechanic rhythm. With the introduction of the moving assembly line for automotive production, Henry Ford choreographed humans and machines towards maximum efficiency. Technological mechanisms have now moved closer to the body and use it as a tool for production and consumption. Is the increasing level of automation an obstacle for the individuation of the workers and for actualising their emotional agency? What about a worker no longer in need of self-reflexivity, living in an over-monitored loving environment?

For this patent, we imagine a more affective — as opposed to eective— production process. Workers wear ultrasonic tracking bracelets (Amazon Patent No.US20170278051A1) which monitor their activities. They pick up items and place them on the conveyor belt- the emblem of the logistical process. On the body of the conveyor belt, cameras and speakers collect data and detect the motion, orientation, and the worker’s facial features. An integrated communication system between the bracelets and the containers is able to detect if the worker feels tired, dissatisfied or emotionally stressed. The system then automatically instructs the larger inventory management system to halt its operation and slow down its process.

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The progressive advance of automation into dimensions of life previously unthought is beginning to map out a new terrain for labor. This terrain still perpetuates a profit-optimising and algorithmically-driven system. In this case, the flow of items through the consolidation stations is based on the emotionality and bodily reaction of the workers. This is perhaps a tangible example of an alternative value system e.g. a community-run factory. It is a way that infrastructure could be designed if worker’s voices -and bodies- are taken into account.

Multi-use katiyabaaz outlet system

“Our ambition in India is to become everything for everyone,” said Amit Agarwal, head of Amazon in India. India, with its billion-plus people — 65% under the age of 35 —, rising levels of disposable income, and ubiquitous cell phone ownership is a largely untapped e-commerce market.

In 2016, Amazon was granted a patent for Multi-use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) docking station systems (US9387928B1). The docking stations can be incorporated into existing structures such as cell towers, light and power poles. They act as delivery hubs or recharging/refueling stops. With ~20% of the Indian population living in rural areas with underdeveloped infrastructure, what additional services can those docking stations provide? India is well-known for electricity theft, frequent load shedding and unscheduled outages, leaving as many as 700 million people without electricity. Local electricity thieves —also known as katiyabaaz— climb onto light towers and tap to the power line with their bare hands. Amazon is entering a complex geopolitical situation of ageing grid infrastructure, unaccountable politicians and dying industrial villages.

We re-imagine a bottom-up electricity hacking system to reclaim the public infrastructure. It comprises of a capacitive cable that attaches to the UAV docking stations and results into a power outlet that provides electricity to the local communities. The power supply for the UAV could be a fuel cell or solar energy and charging options can include inductive, RF, and other non-contact options.

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Locals who either can’t afford to pay for electricity or simply can’t access it, will be able to divert the electricity flow. They can now tap into the excess power and charge their personal devices, power tools, or even light up the streets. Instead of Amazon’s capitalising upon public infrastructure, disadvantaged populations could now capitalise upon Amazon’s proprietary infrastructure.

Selected Works

proletariat.aiMachine intelligence research

Coded GazeMachine Intelligence Research, Visual design

FilisiaSocial Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Education

Feminist AlexaMachine Intelligence Research, Performance

Social DronesInteraction Design, Robotics

Augmented NatureRobotics, Ecology, Speculative Design

VerdeliseSocial Innovation, Circular Economy Design

Cognitive ExoticaArtificial Intelligence Research, Fiction

Floating LabDesign engineering workshop, Ecology