Signs of Life
In fall of 2017, I was accepted to the group Art, Design, and the Public Domain
(ADPD) at Harvard's graduate school of design with this straightforward mission: connectivity. Dataists, examined in Yuval Noah Harari's book Homo Deus
, believe that life can be regarded as the flow of information of data. Consequently, the Dataist would equate death with a lack of data. The ultimate goal of the Dataist should be to attain a state of total connectedness: simultaneous access to all data at all times.
In a Dataist sense, the present epoch is defined by connectivity. David T. Hill, a lecturer at the University of Liverpool, compliments Harari's diagnosis of human development by laying out a thesis of cognitive labor in The Pathology of Communicative Capitalism
. Here, Hill elaborates on the communicative economy and how connectivity has enabled the expansion of a first-world Dataist society.
Hill is quite concerned with the resulting psychological distress of an immaterial economy— an "always not-offline" society. His disturbing conclusions aren't new. In 1959, in fact, Peter Drucker in The Landmarks of Tomorrow
coined the term "knowledge worker", saying:
"The most valuable asset of a 21st-century institution, whether business or non-business, will be its knowledge workers and their productivity."
As the economy shifts to consider knowledge— the product of divergent and convergent human thought— as the dominant commodity, machines will likely subsume most other forms of physical, tedious, or otherwise "unintelligent" labor. Both authors share an anxiety for this progressive revolution, the pinnacle of which would be the resolution of a credible theory of mind and the inevitable technical understanding of consciousness.
Already, as pointed out by Harari, scientists and engineers have succeeded in rat mind-control
, mentally-activated robotic prosthetics, and helmets that can directly manipulate your neural activity (producing or inhibiting feelings similar to a psychoactive drug). Dataism is based in pattern, purpose and process. When machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence, we will be forced to either continue augmenting our biological, carbon-based selves or face some sort of apocalyptic extinction.
In recent decades, humanism has expanded to become the new global doctrine, rooting society— despite its cultural, religious, and technical diversity— in the core belief that human life is sacred.
Additionally, most people still collectively believe in the existence of
a soul and some form of afterlife. In The Landmarks of Tomorrow
Peter Drucker also wrote:
"It is almost frightening how fast the obvious of yesteryear is turning incomprehensible."
Rapid advancements in technology challenge our most ancient and dogmatic beliefs in what it means to be conscious, feeling, living creatures. At the point that a machine can imitate the complex algorithms of the human mind well enough to replace us— even in creative roles— what then will be the value of Homo sapiens?
I am an artist, a creative technologist, a researcher, an architect, a designer, a media theorist, an anthropologist, and sociologist— but, first of all, we are all human beings. I have written extensively on networks, their behavior and protocols, and on my newfound knowledge of connectivity
. Data can be used for political manipulation as easily as it could facilitate the collective assembly of alternative community networks like the Cuban street network
(SNET), or the nation-wide Guifi
network in Italy.
Connected objects and environments (the Internet-of-Things, or "IoT") can automate your experience at Starbucks, eliminate traffic with autonomous vehicles, and keep our air conditioned from home to work and back. However, these might also enable mass surveillance, put hundreds of thousands out of work, or unsustainably consume precious natural resources.
Collectively, my ADPD group has concerned itself with politically-engaged interventions in the built environment— especially those which are accessible in the public domain. Through this program, I have had the opportunity to perform an interdisciplinary role— bridging many unique academic communities. In this way, we've each conducted thorough research on human culture, behavior and history with unique academic perspective. Simultaneously, we engage this understanding to inform thoughtful practice.
Technology is enabling new forms of media that have the ability to augment our experience of space. In this regard, my research is often concerned with the hybridization of architectural, urban, and formal language with existing and emerging digital
spaces, artifacts, and algorithms. Using my experience, I'd like to engage in the production of new connected spaces, intelligent environments, and physical computing systems; and to assure my creative, professional relevancy in a rapidly evolving economy.