Robotruckers: The Double Threat of AI for Low-Wage Workers

May 5, 10:30 am, Donald Bren Hall

Much attention has been paid to the risk AI poses to employment, particularly in low-wage industries. Long-haul truck driving is perceived as a prime target for such displacement, due to the fast-developing technical capabilities of autonomous vehicles (many of which lend themselves to the specific needs of truck driving), characteristics of trucking labor, and the political economy of the industry. In most of the public rhetoric about the threat of the self-driving truck, the trucker is seen as a displaced party. He is displaced both physically and economically: removed from the cab of the truck, and from his means of economic provision. The robot has replaced his imperfect, disobedient, tired, and inefficient body, rendering him redundant, irrelevant, and jobless. But the reality is more complicated. The intrusion of automation into the truck cab certainly presents a threat to the trucker, but the threat is not solely or even primarily experienced, as it is so often described, as displacement. The trucker is still in the cab, doing the work of truck driving-but he is joined there by intelligent systems that monitor his body directly. As more trucking firms integrate such technologies into their safety programs, truckers are not being displaced by intelligent systems so much as they are experiencing the emergence of intelligent systems as a compelled hybridization, a very intimate incursion into their work and bodies. This talk considers the dual, conflicting narratives of job replacement by robots and of bodily integration with robots, to assess the true range of AI’s potential effects on low-wage work.

Karen Levy is an associate professor of Information Science at Cornell University and associated faculty at Cornell Law School. Her new book, Data Driven: Truckers, Technology, and the New Workplace Surveillance, offers a behind-the-scenes look at how surveillance and automation are affecting the trucking way of life.


Design as Democratic Inquiry: A Conversation with Carl DiSalvo

May 19, 2022, 1pm PDT
Webinar URL:

In his recent book, Design as Democratic Inquiry: Putting Experimental Civics into Practice, Carl DiSalvo presents an argument for “doing design otherwise”. Arguing that democracy requires constant renewal and care, he shows how designers can supply novel contributions to local democracy by drawing together theory and practice, making and reflection. The relentless pursuit of innovation, uncritical embrace of the new and novel, and treatment of all things as design problems, he suggests, can lead to cultural imperialism. As a counterpoint, he recounts a series of projects that exemplify engaged design in practice. These experiments in practice-based research are grounded in collaborations with communities and institutions.

Carl DiSalvo
Georgia Institute of Technology
Leah Horgan
Northeastern University
Lilly Irani
UC San Diego

Carl DiSalvo is a designer, writer, researcher, and educator. He is an Associate Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, with appointments in the School of Interactive Computing and the School of Literature, Media, and Communication, and direct the Experimental Civics Studio. He earned a Ph.D. in Design from Carnegie Mellon University (2006). From 2006 – 2007 he was a post-doctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University with joint appointments in the Studio for Creative Inquiry and the Center for the Arts in Society.

He publishes regularly in design, science and technology studies, and human-computer interaction journals and conference proceedings. His first book, Adversarial Design, is part of the Design Thinking, Design Theory series at MIT Press; his second, Design as Democratic Inquiry: Putting Experimental Civics Into Action, was published this year by MIT Press. He is also a co-editor of the MIT Press journal Design Issues. His experimental design work has been exhibited and supported by the ZKM (Center for Art & Media, Karlsruhe), Grey Area Foundation for the Arts (San Francisco), Times Square Arts Alliance, Science Gallery Dublin, and the Walker Arts Center (Minneapolis).

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