[PROJECT] CHAT CUBE
So I had some time to learn about electronics, microcontrollers and low power devices. To work with electronics always means to work with machines in a more direct way, looking at the principles of electricity and information technology, which gives a rare insight in the world of computers and their mostly covered data processing. Also, I always liked machines, that were encapsulated and somehow isolated – working on it’s own, without interventions from outside. (Best example, that I admire the most is Voyager 2, who left the Solar System and is still operating after 43 years. Unbelievable. )
I started experimenting with cheap GSM modules and ended up building an SMS chat bot which was totally hidden and encapsulated in an concrete/epoxy cube together with it’s battery power source. I liked the idea of being able to write messages to a mysterious cube, which would then answer and entangle you into a conversation. It’s a weird cube, with a weird operation. As an object, it only gives hints about it’s nature as a technology device. The electrics are mostly hidden from view, deep in the concrete.
But it also tells a story of data security. How and when are you able to say for sure what a machine like a modern computer is doing? How can you be sure, when you can’t trace the calculations, can’t look inside? You mostly rely and trust in code, which you mostly either didn’t read or couldn’t read. In this case you’re told you’re texting with a mysterious concrete cube – but did that really happen? How can you tell? Could have been the number of anyone, just pretending to be a rather dumb SMS-answering-concrete-cube.
I presented the cube to a bunch of people who tested it’s function, and there were mostly impressed reactions. They were amazed by the cubes reaction anyhow. But what I found interesting is, that nobody questioned it’s function. They took it for granted, that the claimed operation is the only way this thing could work, even if they had no proof whatsoever. I realized, that that’s the normal case – for example, we’re told that our mobile phones work the way we expect a phone to work. Unless, all of a sudden we are getting wiretaped and all of our communication intercepted. We wouldn’t even realize because we’re used to blindly trust in these technologies and start to answer questions only when it’s already too late.
Turns out, people are really bad in making reasonable decisions about who is trustworthy and which device is trustable. We’re not able to reveal it’s function anyway, no matter if our devices are hidden in a concrete cube, or a plastic phone case. These technologies are not made to be easily understandable, they’re made to be easily usable – with all it’s consequences, that most are not aware of. We, as a society, diverged from the technology we use and should engage more in the question of where we want to position ourselves with technology.