It's been a while, so there's some catch up. I've been meaning to respond to a couple of presentations for a while now.
A couple weeks ago David Bruemmer from 5D robotics gave a talk on some pretty interesting robot/human interaction stuff. Ultimately though, it doesn't matter what your technical proficiencies or innovative technologies are if there you're unable to situate that technology in a world beyond itself. As far as I could tell from the talk, the ongoing success of 5D as a business depends entirely on ongoing war. It's not merely a matter of point of maximum impact as Max was claiming, but a fundamental issue of what you choose to look at and not look at. While I'm comfortable standing in righteous judgement of war profiteering, it does make getting a straight answer to an honest question difficult. I had hoped because of the deadly serious issues involved, Bruemmer would have thought through in a more sophisticated way what doing work that solves the 'wrong,' but technically feasible, problem, instead of the considering the actual policy and ethical issues. (diffusing mines with robots, rather than not sending soldiers to war). This is directly relevant to the work in smart surfaces. Only looking at systemic or structural or political problems through a lens of technique, or individual practice is super limiting. To not even see that the problem is structural or political, though, might be even worse . Is the way to shift a paradigm in education really via tinkering within the structure and organization of one class? Is lighting up the side of a burnt out house with LEDs really of much use in solving Detroit's problems?
edit: for a while I thought I was getting more radical as I got older, but it might be that I'm just getting more set in my radical ways...