Machines, Mood and the Future of Happiness


Are we ready for the interactive world?

The purpose of museums are to enshrine the past – it was filmmaker Luis Buñuel who suggested that we destroy all of them and start over. But the Museum of Modern Art just concluded an exhibit that seemed to come from some point in the future. Talk to Me, which closed on November 7, 2011, brought together hundreds of examples of machines that communicated with human beings in funny, complex and extremely thought provoking ways.

Machines allowed interacting humans to experience becoming an animal, let men feel what it is like to have a painful and messy menstrual cycle, linked phone calls and text messages to a device that slowly asphyxiates the one who answers, put the game player into a Gentrification Battlefield, demonstrated a device that allows a paraplegic graffiti artist to continue experiencing the rush of tagging large buildings using interactive software and laser projection, and presented a demonstration of a slingshot that let you paint SMS text messages across the surfaces of buildings (again using laser light projection). And, if you needed a metrocard to get home there was a full-scale working metro card machine ready to take your money. Some of the ideas were simple yet compelling – a beige retro disk drive able to detect when liquids are spilled would rise up like an animal with little legs to avoid damage to itself – a machine able to physically demonstrate self-preservation.

Ready or not – the interactive world is already here.

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