Why is this not data visualization? Show me the data.

I really hate it when people describe my work as data visualization. 

These are experiments to anticipate a future when art is simply the way we will consume data about ourselves... and the people around us. Art holds emotion and nuance, we can read it as pattern that explains the experience. The data is just an ingredient.

I imagine we will live in spaces filled with 'bumpy walls' with color and texture that tells us an ever changing story about ourselves. And the mesmerizing part of this will be how it will anticipate and predict for us, a type of time-travel into our future to give us a glimpse of what will come. Maybe biofabricated and grown or lasercut with tiny robots... the idea is that these will be easy to recycle and update all by themselves. 


But rarely do I show where the actual data originated, and how the work happens. Here is a presentation I pulled together for a meeting last week, and thought it was helpful enough to share.


Friend Nutrition: who to see, know, ignore...


I have a few people in my life who are a little 'toxic' -- what if I got a nudge to ignore them, or that lunch date we promised simply 'fell' off the calendar.

This is the future.

It's not about the data gathered about you, our next fixation will be the data gathered about the people around you. I predict who you hang out with will be like diet and exercise, we'll manipulate body chemistry with friends.

I'm dipping into 'art science' it's a near-future version of art-science-fiction. Here's my pitch.


OK, I'm joking when I say -disrupt- it's become a way to make fun of silicon valley startups, but.... if there is an inch to be found in anything that is random, disorganized or could be tweaked for advantage, the software world will find it.


Have you noticed how friends make you feel? Some kick you in the butt and you exercise more, dress better, eat fish, think of a new project, feel a new job is possible, start a business... and others do just the opposite? Friends really are the new family, in cities like Seattle and Denver 40% of adults live alone. In the last couple years, sociology of friends has exploded with new studies, friends of friends influence if you smoke, lose weight, how you vote. New research has measured stress, inflammation... all the things that affect how your body fights disease, the underpinnings of your immune system could be manipulated with the people around you. No FDA approval required.

Friends are huge.... the most powerful mechanism to influence how you feel, and it's left to chance?


My imagined software 'Friend Nutrition' gives you a nudge... the comments and posts you see in your social media, the messages that get priority and you see first. A toxic meeting? Boom - canceled. Who you run into in the real world, those serendipitous introductions, friend-of-friend meetings at somethingorother. Not so accidental, the mathematics of networks can connect you to situations and people that are part of a nutritious mix. Amid a day of too much to do and too few real friend encounters - Friend Nutrition is an invisible nudge. 

Yeah, I made up the results...but I asked friends in the know and looked at tons of academic studies, the behavioral change is probably even higher, but I wanted it to look believable.

How would this software make money? At the same time it serves up visible connections, it reverse bills for product placement - there is a fancy bike in the image, a can of LaCroix water, the car in the background of the selfie ...those companies get microbilled for visible product placement.


How? It's machine learning for the complex interaction of friends. It doesn't actually understand HOW you make friends, it just watches your response to people. Your friend network is limited, with maybe 150 casual friends and about 15 intimate friends - so the actual numbers are pretty reasonable. 

The best sensors will be tracking your voice from the microphone on your phone - the pitch, timing, language analysis all very indicative of how you are responding. Think I'm making this up, check out the Sociometer study from MIT, company is now called Humanzye. 

This whole system of an unsupervised machine learning for friends would be like AlphaGo from the DeepMind team acquired by Google. It mastered the complex game of Go. The complex system of moves, countermoves, and how a friendship forms, shifts and responds is something like a game. The training dataset for billions of social interactions exists, WE are training the social media dataset - it's huge, 500,000 comments a minute. 2 billion users of facebook, 80% of US internet users. Yes, it's learning how we interact, better than we understand ourselves.


Friend Nutrition - like a balanced meal of who to see, know and ignore. 

Hell, I wrote this post, cause I imagine an academic team is working on this, and could use some encouragement :-). 

Relationships are ripe for machine learning


Human chemistry feels complicated, but the intricacies of relationships are ripe for machine learning. How do you feel about this person, how do they feel about you? A great deal of human interaction can be patterned and captured in a very large AI system. It's coming.

Laurie predicts we will casually use the data we know about us and the people around us to manipulate our body chemistry. The surprise is that it will be easy. It will start with how people affect us. The people we know and our connections will become like diet and exercise, we'll understand them in the way we know what makes up a balanced meal.

An artist makes a case for the future of relationships. Updated slides for talks in August 2017 below.



Below are the slides for the sxsw 2017 talk.

How do your friends affect you? #friendtracking for TEDxLA experiment!

Imagine if your friends were as critical to your well-being as diet and exercise? This is a personal experiment, conducted quietly by lots of people in the coming weeks. Take note of how the people you know or randomly encounter have their effect on you, are they toxic or a vitamin?

Keep track on one of the back-pages of your notebook, a spare scrap of paper, or use a note taking app on your phone. Be as simple or elaborate as you like. Keep a running total (like counting cards) plus, plus, minus, plus, minus… for how you feel after you see, talk or message with someone. Or add up all the positives and negatives for how people influence your mood.  Focus on a few friends or expand to everyone you meet during a week.

Notice how you feel, write it down. How do your friends affect you?

 Ask others to track and show us the results (visualizations welcome!)

Keep a running count plus or minus for everyone you encounter for a week. Mention it to others. Draw a picture, or just post the +++—++–++++++++ …visualizations welcome! Use the hashtag #friendtracking and #TEDxLA will accumulate and repost.

Why measure

There is a tru-ism that you measure what you want to understand. Tons of new research has uncovered that a happy life is based on the relationships we keep. Measuring causes you to pay attention, be mindful, and notice how interactions have an effect on you. Positive or negative? Toxic or a vitamin?

Human chemistry feels complicated, but the intricacies of relationships are clearly becoming measured and understood in ways that will soon feel like science-fiction. Jump in, use a little personal tracking data to notice how people affect you.

More on this topic here.

Prediction: who you hang out with will become like diet and exercise

I want to make a prediction, and time-stamp it with my squarespace blog right here. The amount of data gathered about each one of us is going to be staggering, it kindof already is. But....rather than creepy surveillance to simply present more desirable products to us or conveniently anticipate our up-to-the moment need "OK google!", "Alexa buy me more batteries!". It's going to be surprisingly good. It's going to be I-cannot-imagine-living-without-it good. And this will come soon, within 5 years soon.

I'm not discounting the NSA and global surveillance of individuals under the guise of tracking terrorist activity, and then hanging onto all that metadata for future dissection. That is a problem.

I'm talking about all the micro-activities that make up our day. Who did you talk to, meet with, where did you go, what did you spend, eat, do, sleep, speak, breathe....and oh, how's your microbiome doing? Recording facial micro-expressions from your web or device camera picks up like a little bit of stress, how's your cortisol level? Is your immune system getting hammered? Brain fog, what's slowing you down? Yeah, yeah...you've got your entire genome sequenced, but we know the expression of those genes (epigenetics) and the affect of your day-to-day environment and lifestyle (the stuff you do to yourself) means as much as the DNA you started with. 

The surprise is that it will be easy. It will start with how people affect us. Are they toxic or a vitamin?

I predict we will casually use the data we know about us and the people around us to manipulate our body chemistry. The surprise is that it will be easy. It will start with how people affect us. The people we know and our connections will become like diet and exercise, we'll understand them in the way we know what makes up a balanced meal

Human chemistry feels complicated, but the intricacies of relationships are ripe for machine learning. How do you feel about this person, how do they feel about you. How does their personality map to yours, what is the nature of the relationship, a lover, friend, family, co-worker ....everyone you deal with, worry about or have ever encountered. A great deal of human interaction can be patterned and captured in a very large AI system. It's coming.

You can tell it's beginning cause academic studies are verifying chunks of this idea. Your digital footprint is more accurate predicting your Big 5 personality assessment than your friends (sample size 86,000+), unsupervised machine learning using fictional relationships from literature and much of the work from Sandy Pentland and his graduate students at MIT.... here is just one characterizing reciprocity of friendship.

....as humans will we prefer the randomness and human intuition of assessing relationships?

If you're convinced we are ontrack to know a ton about relationships, and we will surely characterize it with models, network mathematics and even prediction algorithms. So much is known today, it's just not known by us as regular people. How might we consume perfect information about all the people we encounter. As humans will we prefer the randomness and human intuition of assessing relationships or will the machines do it for us?

We are social creatures, since pre-historic time we have been assessing who is a friend and who is an enemy, the champions of this have genetically survived better than humans who were bad at reading people. Our brain's default activity is mulling over our relationships. Rehashing our social lives is the brain's favorite downtime activity. Maybe we don't need any help, we got this one. But....

We are beginning to see many, many apps that are chipping away at the potential to know a whole lot more about the people who shape us, who we can rely on, what is their bias, their priority, will they reciprocate? Not just what you can find when you google or track someone down on Linkedin. CrystalKnows will help you craft better communication, Shapr will introduce me to people Tinder fashion who share my ideas, and emotion recognition like Affectiva is getting embedded in the apps and games we love.

We already use social networks like a life-long rolodex, the obsessive of us 'curate' our feed by specifying who is a close friend, who we keep an eye on and who we hide or unfollow. What we will come to know is how people shape us, right down to the methalaytion of our DNA and direct effect on our mood and stress. We don't need everyone we meet to be super-sweet, I bet the right formula is a mix of slightly acidic questioning people who make us think and others who act like a vitamin boost. Every now and then you need to meet one of those "I-learned-a-lesson" people. Maybe after a few generations, we'll document mathematical patterns for the right relationship-mix during adolescence and another type to shape us as early adults. 

But know that proper dosage of our friends will get served up to us in easy-to-consume social networks. Who we encounter may not be so random. Remember when facebook let you remove all traces of your ex? I bet we'll be able to grab the mix of people we hang out with like a shopping cart of kale and grilled salmon. 

I'm kindof excited about this, everytime I'm completely flummoxed by mis-reading someone or not understanding why I didn't get an email returned, I think....in the future I'll understand it all.

What if art made itself... the art version of a self-driving car.

I make work about data. Personal data gathered about you. The stuff we hardly notice, where we go, what we eat, how much we sleep, who we talk to, click on, write, what causes us stress and how we feel. Imagine a time when everything about our behavior and body is tracked, measured and known. EVERYTHING. Lately, I’ve shifted to how all this data will drive predictions and anticipate much about us. In the same way an artist follows mental rules and decisions for producing work, machine learning software will eventually produce algorithms that make art.

daily stress inventory predicts future chronic health conditions

We know AI robots are writing blog posts and impersonating humans as chat bots. Futurists predict the end of many white-collar jobs. Should we worry? PhD students write art algorithms that recreate paintings, computers learn to create new photographs of faces or scenes with no camera or image knitting involved. 

What if art made itself? The art version of a self-driving car. Imagine art in the future, will there be ‘real’ art and robot art? What happens when we move beyond pixels on glass and automate tangible data in the physical world? Mural walls that grow and recycle? Will people be less fearful if extreme insights from personal data are produced as textured pattern that look organic and colorful? Can we try out the future with a little experimentation today?

Grow your own art... as wall texture from data collected about you.

“Why couldn’t everyone have abstract patterns of their personal data fill their walls”  Perhaps seeing the abstract patterns and rhythms of your self-tracking data is a short-cut to mindfulness. A quick and dirty way to boost your immune system, the benefits of meditation and self-reflection without much effort. Originally I imagined laser and 3D printing technology delivering physical tangible hand-made patterns directly to walls without the cost or intervention of an art gallery or even the artist. But I'm now captivated by bio-fabrication.

I think I found what might turn out to be an easier way....to fill the textured walls of your future 'tiny' apartment. GROW IT! Microbial cellulose that can form shapes and pattern, with little bits of color....and then when it gets wet, it RECYCLES. It's the perfect minimalist art-making material that is both physical and ephemeral. In 6 minutes Suzanne Lee shows what is possible. Very simply, we will grow our own art!

Made you curious??? Here are a whole bunch of projects in the bio-fabricate world, updated and pulled together by Biofabricate.co....just click!