ALEX, Your Best Friend At Work

If we ever reach a world where artificial intelligence knows us better than we know ourselves, are we willing to give in to the all-powerful technology, trade our privacy for a sense of security, our free will for happiness? A semi-critical, moderately humorous look at the relationship between humans and machines, individuals and society.

Performance, Participatory Experience, 2019

Carrie Sijia Wang

ITP Thesis Archive 2019

The Waiting Room, Pineapple Reality

Special thanks to Gabriel Barcia-Colombo

Photo and video documentation: Tong Wu, Gilad Dor, Sejo Vega-Cebrián, Sofía Luisa

“ALEX, Your Best Friend At Work” is a performance and participatory experience that takes the audience into a futuristic office constantly observed, measured and evaluated by an artificial intelligence system called “ALEX.”

For ALEX, every word, action or thought can be turned into data, measurable against an enormous database of rules and standards. Whenever the system detects anything out of the normal, acceptable range, the employee in question is required to attend a “repair session”—a 10-20-minute one-on-one session with ALEX, watched by the other colleagues. Through conversation, data collection, various tests including facial expression analysis and speech analysis, ALEX helps the employee determine the root cause behind their unusual behavior, and make the necessary changes to fix their problems.

The performance follows a linear narrative, in which an employee of the company gets caught on camera crying in the stairwell—a behavior deemed “out of range”—and gets called in by ALEX for a one-on-one session.

The participatory experience invites people, three at a time, to take part in a trial of a beta version of ALEX 2.0, in which the participants are asked to give up their free will and follow ALEX’s suggestions for 10 minutes.