episode 4 – building intimacy through technology | Lauren Lee McCarthy
In this episode, we speak to the artist and computer programmer Lauren Lee McCarthy. In her work, she creates artworks that use a variety of media and techniques, including performance, artificial intelligence, and programmed computer-based interaction. We talked about the importance of presence, exploring intimacy through arts, and developing relationships in a surveillance culture.
Resources and links
[00:00:00] Nir Hindi: Hey, Lauren, welcome to the Artian podcast.
Lauren McCarthy: Hi, happy to be here.
Nir Hindi: Can you take a moment and introduce yourself briefly?
Lauren McCarthy: My name is Lauren Lee McCarthy, and I am an artist working with software and performance and. Installation and I am based in Los Angeles, California.
Nir Hindi: First, I heard you for the first time when you had the podcast at Y Combinator, the famous accelerator podcast, and then James George, and thank you very much, James, that was interviewed to this podcast connected us.
I find your work fascinating. Really? It is not a compliment. It is just a fact it is deals with so many topics that I am interested in. And I am interested. What are you searching in your art?
Lauren McCarthy: I am really interested in the ways that we form relationships with one another and how that is happening during the surveillance and data and [00:01:00] network culture.
That we are a part of. So, I think that they are both positives and negatives about that, but I am in my art always looking for ways to just. Kind of question that and open spaces where we can really reflect on what is happening and how we want to relate to one another in our lives.
Nir Hindi: Actually, every work that you, you do at least make me think and I am interested.
What do you hope to achieve when people interact with your artworks?
Lauren McCarthy: I am critical of a lot of technology. I seem to look at them and see the problems or the inequities. Another thing I noticed is that a lot of times we are presented with new technologies and asked to respond quickly to buy it or to be outraged or to like it or whatever the response is.
It feels like there’s not enough time to really think. And that we are, we are supposed to think these things are black and white when they are not. So., I guess what I am hoping in my work, even though I have my own critical perspective is not necessarily to tell all [00:02:00] people. To think or feel a certain way, but to open a space where they feel like they can start to tease some of these things apart and decide for themselves how they feel.
So, I am really trying to create a space for people to question and foster a sense of agency where really feels like. We can all be a part of these conversations about where we are going instead of just having to have it serve to us from whatever company is producing the technology.
Nir Hindi: Right. I relate to that, it is like everyone, every time there is a new app, it is only by invitation and them kind of create this sense of urgency that you must do it now, or you miss the opportunity of your life to be addicted to another one.
And every platform has their own 20-second story or 30-second story of 60 second story. So, in. I feel that I am working for those technologies, but I find it very difficult to kind of disconnect from it, what we can do about it.
Lauren McCarthy: Yeah, I feel it too. Especially now your devices are your portal to other people most of the [00:03:00] time when we cannot even gather in person.
I mean, I think, again, it comes back to feeling some sense of control or some both like knowing how, and a believing that you deserve to be able to set some boundaries or some guidelines for how you want these tools to intersect with your life. I really think that starts with just having. The time and space to understand what it is that is happening and reflect on how it is shaping your life.
I think art can be a way of doing that, where you are not like, reading just like a Twitter rant or something, or a medium post, but you are just interacting and seeing how literally how you feel and how that’s kind of shaking things up for you. I think that can be a first step. And then from there you might say, okay, well, this is what is okay with me.
This is, what is not. How do I, orient my life around those sorts of values or decisions or boundaries I am setting myself.
Nir Hindi: We’ll get to that in a second, because I remember in our last conversation, you mentioned that you envy Alexa with the project that [00:04:00] you are doing, but before that you started to speak about connection.
And obviously you just mentioned that these devices are the portal to connections with others and your works, often patches, these connections. I am interested. How do you find connections over those this virtual world? Or what does it take maybe to feel connection?
Lauren McCarthy: That’s such a good question. I think a lot of times we confuse.
Bandwidth or fidelity with connection that maybe if we have more hours of video streaming, that I will feel closer to you. And often I feel like it is almost the opposite. Like the more hours of zoom I have, the more disconnected I sometimes feel from everyone. So, I think part of it is how do you find connection?
I think part of it is being intentional about the time that you spend and the kind of energy and throughput that you are putting out there, feeling like you can just. Set some boundaries for your life. [00:05:00] I think right now, especially it is like a situation where that feels hard to do people know where you are at every moment behind your computer.
But then I think it is, so that is one part, right? It is like finding it, figuring out how to work these technologies in a way that works for us. I think the second is like connection really involves tapping into some sense of vulnerability and offering some of yourself to another person. And that sounds great, but it’s not necessarily our normal mode of interaction where we’re much more defensive, rightly so sometimes, but I guess I’m always wondering how do you open up these moments of destabilizing things enough so that we don’t just fall into the patterns of like, okay, here’s what we need to do to get from like morning to night, but we have times where we can, , Bend the rules a little bit, or end up in a conversation space that just a little bit unexpected.
And so, I think in my work, I am often trying to do that. I am like tweaking both the technical and the social [00:06:00] rules around that situation. And hoping that somewhere in that, both the freedom of some of the real shifting, but also the shared awkwardness or discomfort of not quite knowing how to behave.
Something interesting could emerge and that could be bring.
Nir Hindi: I am very much interested to hear maybe example of one of your work. I am just raising the question is the work social turkeys. If I pronounce it correctly, deals with connection.
Lauren McCarthy: Yeah,
definitely. I, that was my goal. Social Turkers was an earlier work in 2013.
It was right around the time that Google glass was coming out. If you remember that. Yeah. Before great outrage about this idea that everyone would always have a camera on them. And there are these surveillance questions, but for me, I was like, okay, well, we are already carrying a camera. I have my phone.
What about the fact that you could be receiving information at any time? And nobody would really know. And so that was sort of what I was thinking about. And at the same time, I am always like, I guess I see my life as the kind of testbed for these ideas a [00:07:00] lot of times or the material. So. I was just thinking about dating, which was something I struggled with at the time and specifically online dating, which was a little bit newer.
So, I basically, I went on a series of date, online dates. I met with people I met online, and I used this service called Amazon mechanical Turk and mechanical. Turk is a website run by Amazon where you can post small jobs for people to do for small amounts of money. So, it is usually used for things that like a human could do easily.
But a computer might have a harder time with like transcribe this audio or to have this image kind of these simple tasks like that. In my case, I applied it to my dating life. So, I went on these dates and I would stream video from our date to web live. And then I would pay workers on this platform to watch and direct me what to say and do.
And I would get these directions via text message and I had to kind of perform them immediately. So, they might say, move closer to him or stop talking [00:08:00] about yourself so much or, or say this we will do that.? And so, it was kind of an experiment to see I do not know, like giving, like what does it mean to bring this these outside to bring the network into a relationship, I guess.
And then there were a lot of questions obviously around. Labor and consent and surveillance as well. And that was the project,
Nir Hindi: and how
did your dates respond to that? Did they know that you are getting instruction from the outside?
Lauren McCarthy: Yeah. I think when, when I would bring this up with them, I mean, it is always different for everyone, but it was tricky because a lot of people then would kind of shift into, well, they become very self-conscious and they also would often the date instead of being just like normal date with somebody become all about talking about this project, which was not really the point of it.
So, I had to kind of find creative ways to work with that or tell people, at the end of the date and things like that, where for me, it raised a lot of like ethical questions, especially around surveillance and privacy. And it was just like a [00:09:00] product of trying to navigate in that moment and figure out what felt right.
And what felt honest or not. But I think what guided me was that I was really like earnestly it was not just for an art project. I think that is true of a lot of my work. I was like looking for someone to date and I ended up meeting my partner through the project. So, I used that as a guidepost, but I just had to navigate and say like, look, I am not trying to like use people for an art project or mislead them just for the point of art.
I think there is something deeper than I am trying to find.
Nir Hindi: here. Amazing. So, at the end, it is kind of, you found your partner through this experiment. You want me to experience? I will not call it an outward now I have changed the language.
Lauren McCarthy: Sure. Yeah.
Nir Hindi: Remember the first time I, I even heard about Amazon talks was when I learned about your project.
I am interested. What do you think about all the Tinder and Bumble of the worlds today?
Lauren McCarthy: I think those are a necessity right now. It is so hard to meet people. I mean, I think that compared to when I was, even when I was doing this project in [00:10:00] 2013, which was still dating up to been around or sites have been around for a while.
I think the stigma has really gone away. We really understand that there are a lot of different ways to meet people and connect with people. And that could be digital, or it could be physical. I mean, I think overall it is a positive thing. I think on the other hand, what I see, I see happening as people kind of like swiping through things, it feels like there is like an endless feed of people.
So, like you’ve never. It can feel hard to settle because you are like, well maybe if I just keep looking, I will find the next one. That is even better. And it feels different than in physical life where you are like, well, there is so many people in the city and how many of them am I going to meet? So, I think that is a challenge that we are dealing with in general, not just dating, but like how do we maintain this feeling of.
Like each individual person and there, their importance in their presence, and not see them as like, Oh, you are just one more zoom call or you are one more email, my inbox or your one squarer on my Tinder screen.
Nir Hindi: You [00:11:00] be.
in the moment, be with the permit with the person.
Lauren McCarthy: Yeah. And I think part of it is just like, there is such an influx of people in communication.
So, it really takes us being more conscious about like, who are we holding space and time for?
Nir Hindi: I do not know if I read it or someone told me the story is that think about even how we ask people, how are you just, okay, how are you? It is just part of the conversation, but they did. They think the research that they showed that if you say, how are you just change the tone?
You can change the whole conversation because suddenly it is not, how are you just part of, Hey, good morning. It is Paying attention to you. It is kind of, while you are talking about thinking about mindfulness and being in the moment and, kind of in maybe savoring, even the conversation that you have with people, if that is makes sense, because your work also deal with intimacy.
And I wonder maybe you can share one of your work that deal with intimacy. Because you have so many
Lauren McCarthy: what I am always [00:12:00] thinking.
Nir Hindi: I do not know what to choose. I just will encourage listeners go check Lauren’s a website and we will add the links because it is like a whole library of human experiments. I do not know if now, now that you said it, I do not know if I can call them artworks anymore. It is so beautiful.
There. Maybe you can share with us one of the works that you liked around intimacy and technology.
Lauren McCarthy: One
reason that I am so fascinated by intimacy in my work is because I feel like I am someone that has a difficult time socially, especially when I am first meeting people. It is like some people have that ease,
And I feel like I am sort of on the opposite end. So, I am always trying to crack the code of like, how do you get close to someone? Cause for me it happens sometimes, but I do not. know, no, like what did I do? Or how do I do that again? And so, it feels like, and then I see the way that I am kind of like defeating myself a lot of times because I have so much anxiety about this.
And so, a lot of these projects feel like there’s attempts to just kind of like hack the situation, like from a. No hacking from a software perspective is just like trying to find [00:13:00] sort of an exploit or another way into the situation. So, I am trying, I am almost like using that kind of like logical part of my brain.
Just figure out if there is some other way to go about this. So, one of the projects that comes to mind is for a few years ago, it is called a follower and the concept is just, it is a service that provides a real-life follower for a day. So, people could go and sign up on a website and download an app.
And the app would just notify them one day when they woke up, you are now being followed, and it was like a one-day performance. So, then their phone would start broadcasting their GPS data to a person that was physically following them throughout the day, like down the street or into the grocery store or wherever they go.
And then at the end of the day, it would notify them. You are no longer being followed, and they would get one photo that was taken during the day. And so, in most, almost every case I was the follower who is not something that I, that people necessarily knew. So, they did not know they were looking out for me.
Usually they would not, some people would notice their follower during the day or notice me and others would remain clueless [00:14:00] the whole time. But for me, it was such a nice project because it was like, I got to spend this whole day with this person. And get close to them and like close in physical sense, but also close in the sense of just like seeing, getting this perspective on how they live without having to talk to them.
But I mean, so that was a relief for me, but also like some in that lack of communication or interaction, I think something else emerged, and this is something I play with a lot. It is just. The imagination of the other person can come, can sometimes be even more than the presence or the person themselves.
So, we are not speaking, and we are not interacting, but I spend my whole day imagining and trying to like, Extrapolate who is this person that I am following. And similarly, they may or may not see me, but there, they know that there is a person there and they kind of feel that presence. And they are also thinking, who is this person following me?
What are they thinking as they are watching? Where can I take them? Sometimes they would become almost like a dance. Like they would almost take me on a [00:15:00] tour of their city or something. So, I like to go back to that project because it, for me is one of the most intimate yet. There was so much distance, we are not having interaction.
So, it really like re. Configuring my ideas of presence or what closeness or intimacy can
Nir Hindi: Very interesting because it is in a way, what I hear from you, there are positive sides for this project, and I am also thinking about what the negative sides might be. And it is kind of remind me. I saw David Letterman show then he hosted the Kim Kardashian, and she told the story when she was robbed in Paris.
And apparently, they followed her pictures where she was located all the time. So, they all the time knew basically where she was at. Sometimes I, I wonder if they are producers of Black Mirror are following your work, because it seems like a perfect theme for episodes.
Lauren McCarthy: Yeah, it is funny., after I did the social Turkers project, I think like a year later, their Christmas [00:16:00] special was all about this idea of, someone watching into a date and directing them.
It is funny. I guys, I always swing back and forth for me. My projects are very. I feel that they are critical, but there is always some part that’s kind of about hope. And otherwise, for me, that feels like a difference with black mirror that I watched that show and I often feel sort of hopeless or depressed.
And I think, and I think there is a useful place for that. But in terms of my work, I feel like I must have something in it that feels kind of hopeful for me. Otherwise, I do not, it does not feel worth it for me to just create another kind of dystopia. We have so many already existing this thing, I do not want to just put people through experiences, just completely critical or negative, but yeah, I mean, so I swing back and forth.
I can focus on these moments and these projects where there is something exciting. It feels like there is some kind of [00:17:00] breakthrough in terms of interaction. But on the other hand, yeah, the whole premise of it is very problematic. Like. I am trying to point out, I think another thing people feel in addition to just intimacy is like, Oh man, like my point was, your phone is broadcasting this data all the time, but you do not normally feel so aware of that vulnerability or that lack of privacy.
Right. As you do in the moment when, I am following you down the street. So, a lot of times I think I am trying to make these human metaphors. To help us understand. They are like these systems that are just larger than us that become, that I think are just hard to have an intuition for. And so, through these performances, I am hoping that like, by making it more literal, like I am literally a person walking down the street.
Maybe that puts a face to it where they can say like, Oh, maybe I want to set some boundaries there. Maybe I am
Nir Hindi: Totally because the culture we are living is more, likes, more followers, more shares, and suddenly, thinking that I will have [00:18:00] 10 or 20 or three people below my building waiting to follow me, makes me anxious.
Before we talk about your work Lauren, when you transform yourself to a human version of Alexa, let us take a short break.
Lauren, I am super fascinated by the project that you did when you became the human version of the Amazon. Alexa, can you tell us about this project and then why actually doing it?
Lauren McCarthy: So, the project is called Lauren and basically. I, it was an attempt to become Alexa to become a human smart home essentially. And so, people could sign up to get the service called Lauren in their homes.
And then I would come and install a series of custom network devices like cameras, microphones, store locks, which is another.
Nir Hindi: in total stranger’s houses.
Lauren McCarthy: Yes.
Yeah. And with, I mean, it is important to say I would do it with their consent, but also with their oversight. So, I am installing things and they knew where everything was. [00:19:00]
I mean I would leave, and I would remotely watch the feeds and watch over them for basically 24 hours a day. Like anytime they were awake, I would be watching, and I would also be controlling their home. So, I could, change the lights or unlock the door or turn on the faucet or any, depending on what I have installed in their house.
And they could ask me to. Do things, but I could also kind of try to I would like to think that I was like better than an AI, because I could understand them as a person. So, I would often act without them asking, just deciding like, Oh, I think they need this. Right?
Nir Hindi: Like
what can you give us an example?
Lauren McCarthy: Like
looking up a recipe or suggesting something for dinner, if they seemed a little bit hungry or, it is like just setting the ambience of a room at specific moments, or even like going so far as to like, Order deliveries or things to their house. Every performance is specific to the individuals living there.
So, the whole thing would last somewhere between like three days and a week, and then I would de-install and leave. And [00:20:00] that, that was sort of the performance.
Nir Hindi: So, it immediately invites the question. Why doing it? Why you transform yourself to a human? I do not know if to call it surveillance, but the human Alexa.
Lauren McCarthy: Yeah,
I think it, the project started thinking about when Alexa was really starting to become a bigger thing. Like I was noticing every box from Amazon came with this like Alexa team, trying to convince you to buy it. And I was just thinking so much about how like it is marketed as this utilitarian device, like a speaker you can talk to, but this.
Space it invades is so personal. It is your home. It feels like it is maybe it is one step further than just your phone in your pocket. It is the space that you live in. It is where you grow up. It is where you learned to be a person. I just felt like we were not talking about that enough. Like, what is this boundary that is being crossed?
So that’s kind of where, what I was thinking about. And I, again, my intention was to create a situation where we could really reflect on that and grapple with that [00:21:00] on human terms. On the other hand, There was like purely selfish motivations. Like I was saying, Alexa, get this intimate access to people’s lives or they just invite her in and then just like share every detail of their lives with her and just thinking, without any need to do any kind of like getting to know them or anything, it is just like, boom she is in there.
So, I was kind of just totally jealous. I was like, I want someone to invite me into their home and just like share themselves with me like that. So it was, again, it was kind of a hack and I was like, I wonder if I made myself into a smart home, if I would also get that kind of access. And I did.
Nir Hindi: And, and, and I wonder, what did you discover about people?
The fact that they know that now it is not necessarily an algorithm that is a human. Did you feel that they are more reluctant to share or more open to share? Or what was some of your discoveries?
Lauren McCarthy: It varied so much between people and it also varied at different moments or for different things. So, I think one thing I noticed across the board is people are more, much [00:22:00] more patient.
, they would ask me to turn on the lights. I had hit the wrong button, or there would be a bug in the software had written in like the hairdryer would turn on me like, Oh, sorry, let me fix that one second. And they were just understanding about it or those part of the charm maybe was like them imagining me on the other end, like try and keep this thing going.
Whereas, with a lot of bots or things like Alexa, where it is so impatiently, just like, come on, understand me, So that was something I noticed. I think another thing was people would kind of float between seeing and relating to me as a person and relating to me as an AI. They knew the setup but depending on the moment they could kind of put themselves in different headspaces.
I think, especially because I made like a digital voice based on my own. So, I was trying to create this sense of distance where it did not feel like I was just like in the corner, like, Hey, what is up, But they felt like they could just relax into it and like not have to attend to me. So, I think what I noticed in the interactions is some of them.
We are very system like, Lauren turns on the lights or change the music, whatever, and like no feeling, no need to [00:23:00] have a conversation with me about it. They could just order me around. But other times it would get very human where we would have a conversation as they are falling asleep or something, or they would ask me for relationship advice, or even asking me to like, Intervene during a relation or during a date and try to push things in a certain direction.
Nir Hindi: So sometimes you became a reminder. Sometimes you became an advisor. I am asking myself if I refer to the movie, her with Joaquin Phoenix, I am asking, where is it? Because it is like, like he has his own conversation with AI, but over here it is with a human that not necessarily, because he did it in different places around the world.
Lauren McCarthy: Yeah.
And every person was so different, I remember one, when people sign up, they have to say like, why, why would you like to have Lauren in your home? And one person even wrote, like, I am thinking about getting Alexa. And I thought I would try this first trying to sell you on that. But okay.
You are doing your research.
Nir Hindi: and at the end, I wonder if they got the Alexa, do.
Lauren McCarthy: I do not [00:24:00] know,
I should pop up, find.
out, follow up.
Nir Hindi: And if, if, let me know. And I remember one funny story that you told me that happened to you in Amsterdam with Lauren.
Lauren McCarthy: Yeah. Forgot how we got on that topic, but I guess we were talking about, Oh yeah.
Like the sense of. Like in one hand, it is very playful., I am just a presence. And then at other times I became aware of kind of the stakes of this positionality and the responsibilities. And so, on one mum that happened was in Amsterdam where I was doing it in a home. And it had all been installed remotely because I was not physically there.
And so, I had shipped all the things. And before that, I had only done it in the U S. So, everything was installed and running, but I remember like listening or watching and thinking like, wow, that hairdryers it is like making a weird noise. And then I was like, Oh wait, what about the power situation? I did not like include converters.
And then I am like, remembering or realizing that the, the voltage in Europe versus the U S and so I was like, Oh no, I need you to like, tell them to like, turn everything off for a [00:25:00] second so we can fix this issue. And then at that moment, like, Everything goes dark. Like all my cameras turn off and, and like, I cannot connect to their house at all.
And I was just like, Oh my gosh. Should I just like, like what happened? Like, Oh my God, does everything just like melt down over there. And so, there is like 10 minutes where I am just like, Oh, God what happened?? And then it turned out the lights came back on and they were fine. It turned out, it was like something, their child had like flipped a switch or something that it turned off the power in their house.
But I think there are moments like that where I was like, Oh yeah, I am having a lot of control and not just. Conceptually, but literally I have the switches to their home or the possibility to intervene in big ways. And again, it goes back to Alexa, right? Like we can think of it as just a small device in the corner, but it is really shaping, it has a huge impact to really shift or affect our lives and ourselves,
Nir Hindi: I want to add another layer to the conversation.
Maybe you will find it. Interesting someone very dear to my heart. Does not bring Alexa at home. Because she [00:26:00] does not want her kid to learn, to speak to Alexa. I did have a woman voice in a tone of ordering, so she does not want to create this, that he will learn to speak to women in commands. So, I do not know.
Maybe we will add another layer. You mentioned ambiance and creating ambience and I am holding in my hand, the book real feeling and. It is an exhibition that now your part of and touring Europe and over there, you did a work that called vibe check. And in a way, I do not know, it is kind of setting our own personal ambience.
What is this vibe checked? How did you get to this work?
Lauren McCarthy: Yeah. So, vibe check is a collaboration with Kyle McDonald, and it is sort of a continuation of a lot of ideas that we had worked on in some earlier projects around sort of the surveillance and data as it relates to kind of intimate relationships or the way that us.
Interact with one another. So, in this piece, people walk into the gallery and there are [00:27:00] these little cameras installed throughout the whole show. And it is basically capturing photos of people interacting with each other and analyzing their each other and analyze and figure out like who in the gallery right now is making other people have the most reaction.
Like, so for example, if you see a photo and everybody is looking very disgusted and then there is one person that., it seems to be the cause of that. So, it is kind of aggregating all these moments as people move throughout the space and try and creating almost a leaderboard of like who in here is the one that, when people are around them.
They feel the angriest or the saddest or the most gleeful. And then as people walk out through the exit, they see this leaderboard in these photos display photos display photos, the different actors in the space. So, it is really meant to like, make us reflect on just what is this., I think especially in a pandemic as tracking and surveillance have been.
Increasingly utilized, increasingly utilized increased. There has also been this kind of [00:28:00] passive observation of just like our neighbors, right. Where your kind of like, Whoa, what are you doing? Or, Oh, I see you have a friend over. Huh? And your kind of modeling constantly. And you are asking, are they a threat or is this person that lives next door?
To me, the key to me, like retaining some sense of humanity, but I think we are all just so aware of our work. So, vibe check is meant to kind of talk about those issues of like, yeah, we can keep our distance in this gallery, and we can, wear masks and not touch each other, but we are constantly influencing all the people around us.
So, what does it mean to kind of track and analyze that., in case of COVID, we are doing it on a biological level in terms of the virus, in terms of a virus, in terms of the level, in terms of the effect that we are causing? So that’s sort of the long explanation of the piece. I think another thing we are interested in, and it is just like setting up the space throughout the gallery where the piece is not in one, the piece is not in one, it is kind of like every moment you are sort of a part of it.
[00:29:00] Nir Hindi: So, he is going over emotion tracker in kind of a self-reflection that I see that you understand. I am angry that you understand that I am sad that you understand maybe, instead of just having a mirror in our home, we should have this small mirror that show us how we look when we are sad.
so, it is kind of why, when everyone say, smile is just two dots up to change your mindset. I really like it., you mentioned the pandemic and I must ask you something because you deal a lot with human intimacy and the whole of human in technology. Personally, I feel that before the pandemic, every company, every software, all the time, praise the software, praise the technology, it was human in the service of technology.
But I feel that the pandemic, at least I hope to change this notion and kind of put human back in the center. What do you think?
Lauren McCarthy: Oh man, that is a tough question. [00:30:00] Yes. We are at the center of these technologies now, and I think it is really causing a reckoning of how we want to interact with technologies and how do we want them mediating our interactions with each other.
And we are forced to reckon with that because. That is what is happening every day. Right? You do not have any unmediated, I am, I have this at the same time. I feel like there is such a need for connection, psychologically, but also just like pragmatically to do work that it feels to some extent that we are really at the mercy.
A lot of these systems, you can file a complaint about zoom or whatever clubhouse or whatever app you are using. And they mostly, they seem to be somewhat reactive because they generally want customers and investors, but. It is not a democracy, it is not like we get to vote and that is not like we get to vote and let us not, and there is, it is so urgent.
It is not like, okay, we will plan this tool, and we will use it in a year once we will and we will use it in a year, once they are [00:31:00] rolling out updates now, and there are some big problems in terms of privacy and accessibility and yeah. Just things that have not really been thought through. So, yes, I think we are more at the center of things, but do we have.
Does that being centered? Give us more of a sense of power or control over how the technologies work. I am not sure.
Nir Hindi: Yeah. So, I have a question over here because we talked about it., there is something popular today that everyone is speaking the world of technology and business human centric, design.
And everyone wants to be centric to the customer. I would claim most of the time without listening to the customer, please. And what I say is that we need to listen more to artists because for me, art is by nature and human centric, because out for me, it is about human for human made by human. And I am interested.
What is the role of art in human centricity of technology? In your [00:32:00] opinion.
Lauren McCarthy: I think there is a huge potential for art to open a lot of questions that are not being asked in the technology or designer business world. A lot of times I think of art is not necessarily solving problems, but creating them, feeding them, which seems to be, I mean, you could argue that a lot of technology is also creating problems, but I think they like to think of problems, but I think they liked to whereas artists have no misconceptions.
So, I guess for me, when I think about art and why, because I started out in, in computer science and engineering, The reason I gravitate towards art. It is less much less about the individual outputs or pieces, and more about a way of, more, about a way of, more about, well, to see, just see the systems and structures that are being built around us and ask why, why these are.
Why is this the roles spoken or unspoken? What happens if we bended or shifted or subverted or break it? And same with the technologies, which are [00:33:00] really these accumulations of rural systems. Right? So, it really fits much of my contrarian nature, but. I think there is a potential there with art to do that.
And then there is also, I think a lot of pleasure to art, which again, I think I was mentioning earlier, like if you read a critique of a technology, there is a way in which you can, or you it is, there is a way in which you can feel like, okay, here is another thing I have to kind of grapple with or deal with.
Or I am being told that I should not use the thing I am using. Whereas I think when you kind of leave, I am mostly trying to find a certain amount of pleasure when people interact with the works or humor. It opens things up in a way where it is like, okay, there is a lot of problems here, but we could work through them together in a way that like, maybe even just that working through them could feel meaningful,
Nir Hindi: different conversations.
It is interesting what you said, because I always say that, that the art in design often kind of interrelate they are overlapping. And for me art it is about formulating the questions design is about [00:34:00] answering them.
Lauren McCarthy: Yeah. I mean, questions maybe as a nicer word than problems.
Nir Hindi: and it is something very interesting because artists always kind of set artists lead for me by questions.
It is for me by why, and then the moment they discover why? So, then the next question often is why not? Why it is not possible. I am very much interested your work later date. It is something that you did during the pandemic. Can you share about it?
Lauren McCarthy: Sure. Yeah, it was just after everything kind of shut down around March.
And I kept thinking about how, everything was getting canceled and, or postponed to later. And I kept thinking about how later kind of had taken on a new meaning. Like it, it had been elevated from, it used to be this place where we would relegate anything that did not really concern us now to the place where we were going to do everything.
It was not clear when that later was, was it in two weeks or in six months or eight? Two years. So basically, the piece I built a web interface to facilitate a series of [00:35:00] online chats with people. And so, they would come and one-on-one we would plan for a later date., when we were able to go outside again, where would we go?
And I was sort of became sort of a fantasy, just being in the same space, being able to touch each other, shared surfaces, breathing, talking. Anything really. And it is kind of a performance in two parts. So, the first part is that conversation and we are imagining, where do we go? What will we do?
will we do?
Nir Hindi: Virtually, the conversation
takes place virtually it is important too, to mention.
Lauren McCarthy: Yeah, exactly. And it is chat. It is text only. So, it is not over zoom or something. It is just typing. And then one day when we decided later, we meet up and we kind of re-enact that, that script or that plan.
So, we would go to the place and we say the things we are going to say, and we eat the foods we plan to eat or whatever. And that is, that’s part two of the,
Nir Hindi: Beautiful., it has reminded me, I do not know. I grew up before they added computers are so [00:36:00] pervasive. So, we used to send letters and normally this is what you would say, what will happen when you meet.
You kind of plan their vacation and it is written on paper with ink, and you send it in the mail, waiting for the response, waiting to it. Beautiful. So, Lauren we are getting into the end of the podcast. And I have one last question that I am very much interested, what will be the role of humans. In, in AI machine learning environment, in your opinion,
Lauren McCarthy: we will just end on an easy one.
Nir Hindi: I think there is no better person to ask than you.
Lauren McCarthy: I have a few ideas. One thing that I have been thinking a lot about is as, you hear so much about jobs being replaced by AI or by machines. And I think what kinds of jobs will not be so easily replaced I think what we are noticing is that all the ones that really require some emotional labor or aspects, or, like a teacher or a caretaker [00:37:00] or a healthcare worker, these are the ones that we are not so quick to want to want to have like an AI take over for us.
And it is interesting too, because a lot of those jobs are often the, some of the lower paid ones. So, I guess I always the optimist, despite my critical lens, I am always, I am hoping that maybe as AI increasingly has a role in our world, maybe we will start to realize how important those sorts of emotional roles are and give them the, the importance and pay that they deserve.
I could even imagine; I have done a few projects where I was sort of like the emotional interface for an algorithm. So, I was like receiving instructions from a piece of software. I wrote the Europeans, and I would like to have to enact them, but with a human touch to it. Right. So, you do not feel like we are just talking to you.
So, I am kind of intrigued by ideas like that, where it is this collaboration, right now there is still a lot of conversations about AI versus human or where do we draw the [00:38:00] lines or who is taking whose job. And I think as we get further into it, we realize. It is so distributed that it will make less sense to talk about it as.
Is it, this, is it a human or is it AI or something, but more just like how, what are the many layers in which these two systems where people, where we work with the systems around us and in different ways? And I think there’s potential for exciting things. And a lot of concerns around just Arianne coding, some of the biases and problems we have in the world, into the systems and then perpetuating them.
So those are those. What I am, I am curious to see you. How, how
do we move forward on that?
Nir Hindi: artists like you, that help us certain direction and show them the potential of doing good with technology? Well then thank you very, very much. I really enjoyed our conversation. I can continue and speak with you for another one hour.
I hope you enjoyed as well.
Lauren McCarthy: Yes. Thank [00:39:00] you. It was a pleasure. I hope that we can also do another hour, but I am going to do it in real life. Like you are concerned.
Nir Hindi: Let us meet in real life. Stay tuned for the next episode, I will be waiting for you just here with another episode of the Artian podcast. Lauren.
Thank you very, very much.