Conceptual artist imagines our cyborg future, uniting cars & drivers

A new exhibition opens today at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It’s called “The Roadable Synapse” (terrible name, I know), and it was developed in partnership with Hyundai.

In a nutshell, the artist, Jonathon Keats, has envisioned a cyborg car–not an artificially intelligent car that thinks for itself and is separate from the driver, but a cyborg in which car and driver are merged. It’s not “driverless”, but “driverful”.

How does that even work?

Brain-computer interfaces, Keats says, could be developed to translate a thought (“make a left!) into an action (the car turns left). But how to make the car into the driver’s body was less clear.

The first step, Keats says, would be to manipulate the sound system to situate the driver in the physical experience of the car. To incorporate a fact culled from his research–that time seems to move more slowly when you’re more stimulated–Keats and Ayler figured out a way to increase the tempo of the music along with the speed of the car. Cramming in more beats per minute, Keats says, mimics the effect of driving faster–you’re passing by and processing more units of the world as the vehicle’s speed increases.

But wait, it gets weirder:

Keats is also experimenting with a hardware that will be built into the seatbelt to make the driver feel hungrier as the car’s fuel goes down. “There’s some evidence in the literature that gastric motility–externally mimicking the effect of a rumbling stomach–and cooling the stomach make you feel hungrier,” Keats says.

Curious and creepy, no? If any of you happen to swing by LACMA to see it, send pics!