Energy Slave Token (2020)
DISNOVATION.ORG & Baruch Gottlieb

“The piece consists of a series of weights made of bitumen, which are the energy equivalents to specific quantities of physical human labour time.”
75 Wh
Power equivalent of 1 hour of average human physical labour (Energy Slave Token table)

In 1940, R. Buckminster Fuller introduced the term “energy slave” to describe the energy required to power the modern lifestyle.6 The concept refers to the technological or mechanical energy equivalent to the physical working capacity of a human adult. The energy requirements for any lifestyle can be calculated as a number of energy slaves equivalent to the number of human labourers which otherwise would be needed to produce the same amount of energy. In 2013, it has been estimated that the average European employs the equivalent of 400-500 energy slaves 24 hours a day.7

The Energy Slave Token consists of a series of weights made of bitumen, which are the energy equivalents to specific quantities of physical human labour time (ie. 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 1 year, 1 life). This series of weights is designed to present the orders of magnitude that separate the labour-power generated by our human bodies from the energy exploited mostly from fossil fuels which power the technosphere. These open source tokens are designed to be easily replicated, used and distributed without restriction.

Average Human Labour and Fossil Fuel Power Productivity:

1 hour of average human physical labour: 75Wh
1 L of fossil fuel (potential power): 10,000Wh
1 L of fossil fuel (transformed by a motor): 4,000Wh

Fossil Fuel Equivalent of Human Labour Power:

1 hour: 75Wh / 4k Wh/L = 18.75 cm3
1 day: 75Wh * 8h / 4k Wh/L = 150 cm3
1 week: 75Wh * 8h * 5d / 4k Wh/L = 750 cm3
1 month: 75Wh * 8h * 5d * 4 w / 4k Wh/L = 3,000 cm3
1 year: 75Wh * 1590h (avg y) / 4k Wh/L = 29,775 cm3
1 life: 75Wh * 1590h (avg y) * 45y / 4k Wh/L = 1,399,875 cm3

(1) Composition: bitumen (petroleum)
(2) Average working time (1 life)
(3) Volume: 1,387,935 cm3

Energy Slave Token (Human Labor To Fossil Fuel Conversion Units), 2020, DISNOVATION.ORG & Baruch Gottlieb, installation, series of 5 standard weights, poster, 3D video

Images and text courtesy of DISNOVATION.ORG and iMAL