Newly Forgotten Technologies

Newly Forgotten Technologies is an installation for 200 discarded ‘smart’ devices and the many possible futures of our relationship to AI and the world.

The installation takes the form of hundreds of discarded and abandoned smartphones, iPads, and smart speakers laying in a darkened e-waste dump sometime in the near-future, while their onboard voice assistants (Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, etc) tell stories about how and why they were thrown away.  Across the dozens of stories, many different possible futures are described where speculative technological, social, and ecological events change our relationship to AI and ‘smart’ technologies to the point where devices like these have been discarded.   Some of these are futures we might want, and some we should try to avoid.  None of these stories describe computers becoming sentient, but all of them talk about the different ways that humans react and respond over time to a changing world.


The aim of these stories is to empower audiences with many alternative ways of thinking about the future, at a time when these discussions are dominated by predictions of either ecological apocalypse or naïve techno-utopianism.  Each of the stories in this work operates in spaces between these two poles, offering a plurality of critical futures to the audience and other ways for thinking about what ‘progress’ really means outside of its contemporary techno-deterministic definition.

The installation features almost 10,000 words of speculative fiction, generatively arranged to create an always-different sonic space, and a unique form of storytelling.  At any time in the installation, some devices throughout the space are telling their stories, while others whisper, hum, or utter broken half-sentences from their shattered speakers.  The low-lit space is illuminated by the individual operating lights and broken screens of each device, creating an environment haunted by a civilisation’s trash.  This simulation of an e-waste dump confronts audiences with a state of common technologies rarely seen in the Global North, though increasingly common in the Global South: thrown away, left to rot, and out of sight of the consumers these devices were intended for.

Newly Forgotten Technologies offers audiences many possible futures for where we go from now, and reveal how the future of AI technologies will always be intimately linked to the climate, extractive capitalism, societal and political change, and the complexities of human life.

This work was created for the Science Gallery London and Future Everything exhibition ‘AI: Who’s Looking After Me?’, running from June 2023 to January 2024.