What could our future relationship with technology look like?

Fall 2019
1 week

Speculative Design
Print Design

Alice Fang
Jaclyn Saik
Emily Zhou

︎︎︎What would a world where our relationships with artificial intelligence and future technology become our most intimate ones look like?  An exercise in speculative design to challenge and critique the present.

We were tasked with taking a future scenario, already written or described, to design a short, immersive experience that brings the world to life, in the form of a stall within an event fair, called the “Futures Fair”. With our stall, we hoped to question and speculate what types of relationships humans would have with devices in the future, and through that, would potential services and products would arise as a result.


In the chapter “Loving the Alien” in his book In Our Own Image, George Zardakis, Greek futurist and philosoper, writes:

“...love conquers all, including sickness and even death. Thanks to our evolutionary history, our brains are hardwired to love and be loved. How can we imagine artificial beings without considering love as the most important bond that could connect us with them?”

We’re already beginning to have more integrated relationships with our personal devices, and electronic devices are practically ubiquitous. As the presence of machines infiltrates further into our personal lives, and artificial intelligence starts living in these kinds of devices, it’s important to have conversations about the nature of these relationships.

According to Zardakis, our obsession with advancing technology is based on an innate desire to explore romantic and sexual relationships with machines. We were interested in exploring this space, and our stall committed to enabling human-machine relationships through three services: matchmaking, relationship counselling, and sex therapy. Part of what we were building out was the question what would a relationship being human and machine look like? What kind of dynamics would there be? What would be different between machine-human compared to a purely human relationship?

“We must program our mechanical children and mechanical lovers to never fail us and remain faithful forever. But what if the algorithm of love is what causes free will? What if whatever we do – or perhaps because of what we try to avoid – intelligent machines ultimately wake and utter the fateful words ‘time was’?”
Futures Fair
01. The stall
Meet the team! From L to R: Alice, Emily, Jaclyn

At our stall, we each played a different role. Jaclyn and I were ‘human beings,’ while Emily was our representative ‘machine being’. For visitors that came by, I marketed our state-of-the-art matchmaking service, as an entry-point to our assumed 100% human audience about the merits of a human-machine relationship.  Emily was our form consultant, and with Jaclyn, our hum-ine sexologist, pitched the various products and services that our organization provided.

02. Our organization’s pitch

03. Setup
Items Produced
04. The stuff
We prototyped a few artifacts to inhabit our world. These include kama sutra devices (if the human-side of a relationship can receive pleasure from toys, what would be a sentient-machine equivalent?) as well as malware prevention drives (STD protection is important!)

Feedback and Results
How it went:
The matchmaking aspect was successful as a highly interactive component of our stall, since everything else was a show and tell approach. Something that wasn’t as successful was conveying some of the smaller details of our worldbuilding. For example, we decided to call human machine couples “hum-ine” couples, but this took additional explaining to people who visited our stall and it ended up being easier just to say “human machine” couples.

We were restricted by the limits of our world, which made it difficult to scope out to the world beyond when it didn’t apply to our organization specifically

What we learned:
Forcing a conversation about sexuality in a setting where people wouldn’t necessarily expect it warrants mixed results; we operated with our own comfort level and openness but: some people are eager, some are uneasy. People are primed already to expect uncomfortable situations, but sometimes it was challenging to be taken seriously.

Some other sensational, super reliable references we referenced in this project:

05. A nice summary poster