Human Computers
Human Computers
installation with an audio guide, 2016-now

A reinterpretation of the history of technological modernity, which links stories and theories from the sciences and a certain mythology with one another

Before the word “computer” was used to designate those machines that were later meant to replace them, it was used for workers who carried out calculations by hand. Both the computer and the division of labor, two concepts that formed the modern world, emerged at the end of the 18th century.

Inspired by reading Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, the foundational work of economic liberalism, the French engineer Gaspard de Prony imported the methods of the factory into computing work, as the demand for this was exploding.
Here begins RYBN’s examination of human computers.

The installation revolves around the “mechanical Turk”, an (allegedly) chess automaton from the year 1770, which Amazon used to name its microwork platform for tasks that cannot yet be performed by AI. An audio guide inspired by algorithmic management, which governs Amazon’s distribution centers, will lead you through the long history of the automation of work.

RYBN.ORG is an artist collective created in 1999 and based in Paris and Marseille, France. RYBN.ORG leads extra-disciplinary investigations within the realms of offshore finance, high-frequency markets and cybernetics. Among the artworks developed by the collective, a survivalist low frequency trading algorithm (ADM8, 2011), an algorithmic cabinet of curiosities (The algorithmic trading freak show, 2012), a psychogeographic GPS to visit offshore locations (Offshore Tour Operator, 2017), a kabbalistic self-destructive computational environment (GOLEM, 2018), a labor market for microworkers embedded in a chess games (AAI Chess, 2018), a collective platform to subvert telecommuting monitoring technologies (Telecommuters, 2020).