PREDICTABLES: the end of the experimental human

On: September 15, 2014
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About Anne van Egmond


In the scope of the ancient desire of human to predict the future, DOR TAL designed ‘Predictables’ as a refreshing interpretation of this mankind’s historic quest. The app searches for “patterns, frameworks and links in the torrent of information that one generates through one’s everyday interaction with the surrounding digital world” (Dor Tal Stuff Design) in order to predict your individual needs in the very near future. ‘Predictables’ consist of a smart watch and a projector, which are both connected to an app. The app collects user data and crawls social networks for data generated about the user. The pico-projector unfolds a timeline of floating bubbles anywhere you want. It represents the appropriate actions to take. The bubbles are color coded to indicate how soon the actions should be taken. Via a smartwatch the timeline can be projected on your hand (Dezeen Magazine).

Although Tal has only made a concept version of Predictables, the future with such apps seems pretty close. GOOGLE NOW already made the first steps in doing so. By collecting and analyzing much data such as your e-mail and texting traffic, your agendas, locations and things you bought online, Google Now provides you information that you need for your plausible next step. The big difference is that Predictables also incorporates data of other people and organisation that potentially might affect them. It suggests appropriate things to do based on what is extracted from other’s data in terms of what they ‘need’. An algorithm detects patterns of behavior that could be a prophecy ahead of time. The more personal information and profiles the more intelligent the device becomes (Dezeen Magazine).

From a broader perspective Predictables seems to heavily draw on what is been called contemporary ‘risk averse society’. Predictables is focusing on making the most appropriate ‘best’ choices, stating what you ‘need’, minimising the change that you do something ‘wrong’. A good thing, you would say. But I also want to make you aware of the things we need to give in, which I will further elaborate on in terms of ‘interpassivity’.

‘Interpassivity’ is a term by SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK and ROBERT PFALLER. Žižek describes this term by the famous example of the VCR, which do more than just recording; they watch TV and accordingly enjoys on our behalf. It redeems us from the need to watch ourselves. We don’t need to watch as long we are in the comforting knowledge that something else is watching for us. According to Žižek we outsource passivity; while the VCR watches for you, you can stay active ‘doing’ both things at the same time. But: ’you think you are active, while your true position, as it is embodied is passive’ (Žižek 7). Žižek also speaks of interpassivity in the sense of substitution: emotions can be moved from subject to object, which he explain through  ‘CANNED LAUGHTER’ in American sitcoms where the television laughs for us. One experiences indirectly the emotion of laughing through the television (Žižek 4).

Pfaller adds an element of ‘detachment’ (van Oenen n.p.). According to Pfaller we also outsource ‘engagement’ because we have a limitless belief in the potential of the system (van Oenen n.p.) we outsource interactions to. This is not because we don’t believe in direct interactions anymore, but simply because we can not handle all the interactions we have to have at the same time. Gijs van Oenen combines these two elaborations in his notion of a ‘interpassive society’ as an explanatory framework for social phenomena, wherein we more and more outsource our wishes, emotions and responsibilities to (digital) devices, institutions and more in general to media (van Oenen n.p.).

When applying the idea of ‘interpassivity’ we could say that we ‘figure out’ through Predictables; we indirectly engage with the things we should do, while being detached from the process towards it that is needed for self-satisfaction and fulfilment. We outsource our search in doing the right thing. We still do it, but our input becomes redundant (van Oenen n.p). So, at first sight Predictables, as a new digital medium, seems a gift from heaven for people in a more accelerating contemporary society. The clip shows a ‘perfect’ world where you will never forget your sport gear and you will always be right on time buying flowers because “Anna might be sad”. Yes, you will be the perfect son in law. Yes, it will help you manage your life, especially when you have to be a whole bunch of different perfect people at the same time. But it may also be the end of the serendipity, of make-up sex, learning from your mistakes and what I like to call, ‘the end of the experimental human’.


Dor Tal Industrial Design. 2014. Dor Tal Stuff Design.11 september 2014. <>.
Dezeen Magazine. “Smartwatch by Dor Tal monitors social networks to predict your future”. Dezeen Magazine. 2014. 11 september 2014.    <  dor-tal/>.
Oenen van, Gijs. “Interpassiviteit”. Erasmus University. 11 september 2014.         <>.
Žižek, Slavoj. “The interpassive subject.” Traverses, Centre Georges Pompidou (1998).

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