Signal 001: The Tree of Life Shooting

I’ll start by acknowledging that my fundamental aim here, to describe the Tree of Life shooting as a signal of connected homes and smart cities is a pretty tenuous place to start which must stretch the limits of your ability to suspend disbelief. Thanks for being patient and taking this journey with me, it is something I need to do.

In order to maintain at least a semblance of sticking to the intent of this assignment, I’ll focus on the way that the event penetrated and pervaded my life through the unavoidable mass of communications infrastructure that has embedded itself in every part of my life.

Relentless Accessibility

I’ll flag this as the first evidence of a “signal”. Without my participation, approval, or consent of any kind, the school is able to access my consciousness anywhere, at any time, for any reason.

Now, I’m not complaining about that. In this case they’re using it to keep me safe and informed, what makes this relevant to what I want to talk about in this class is the fact that I can’t avoid it. The school, and as we’ll see a great many others, have a direct link to my mind that I can’t get away from.

Pervasive Information Flow

The Communication Network

Personal Connection

The Watchers

Haunting Echos From the Past

What Are We Here For … ?

Is there any human expression left for us to experience that isn’t exploited by technology, journalism, media, and politics?

I don’t know the answer, but looking around at the confusion, distaste, and silence emanating from my fellow mourning strangers in the crowd, I knew that they needed a sense of humanity which simply cannot be provided by mass media, yet is inextricably tangled in it. How did we all know to come here to be together? The same thing that leaves us feeling disturbed now.

transformative lampshade from the Morphing Matter Lab


I like all of these things because they’re all a bit weird. But I’m actually interested in the idea of weird squared, or how strange can we make things one day and what would that look like?

Intelligence and Movement

I include the Thermorph project because it gives me solid footing to stand on to say that things can get much weirder than the level of crazy that these other admirably strange visions have managed to achieve.

The idea of hotel pods is fine, but I’m thinking about these as models for personal homes actually. If you wanted your home to move, possibly in an intelligent(..?) manner, what would you want it to do?




Most of the time, when we talk about something being smart, we mean that has computation involved. But I wonder if movement can’t be a form of intelligence as well. If it is, how do we want our things to move?


Authority or Agency?

At a high level, the most obvious connection is a polar contrast of agency. In the worlds described by the two dystopic films, the central forces are on a mission to use technology to crush individual human agency, to standardize, mold, and dominate the human will. Red’s presentation was a exhibition of the human will unleashed through technology.

Both of these visions hold possible dangers. It’s useful to imagine the dystopic version of Red’s world where the worst impulses of human nature are materialized through technological democratization. Being able to design and print your own bacteria seems like such a charming capability to give people until you imagine it in the hands of terrorists bent on tearing our civilization apart.

It is also possible [pronounced unlikely] to imagine the benevolent centralized techno-authoritarian regime. In some ways I think this is the future that our prized big tech companies imagine that they work towards. “Just trust us, we’ll build the world you want, all you have to do is come play and live in our ecosystem.” But it stretches the limits of my cognition to imagine a world in which so few have so much power and manage not to abuse it. All of human history argues that this future is highly improbable at best.

So my signal this week is about the Cube Rover, which I think is good example of the uncertain but potentially beautiful future that awaits us. The idea of democratizing access to research opportunities on the moon is beautiful. But sometimes I wonder what we would end up choosing to use that power for? Is it a good idea to give people access to other planets? How will our lives change when we have this access?

We’re rapidly moving toward an era in which access to other planets is no longer the dominion of just national space agencies. The cube rover is a tiny, and weirdly cute harbinger of the flood of humanity that awaits the silent planetscapes throughout our solar systems.


Mongomery County Maryland

Philadelphia Pennsylvania

The Pattern


Summon Mode

Street Signs

This raises some interesting points: could you hack this system in the future? What if I want to stop everyone from parking on my block, so I put up some decent looking renegade street signs? That might be fun (and probably highly illegal and dangerous).

Addendum: Response to Michael Robinson



design • science • visualization • illustration • jiu jitsu

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Adrian Galvin

design • science • visualization • illustration • jiu jitsu