Cyber Joe: AI Mentor for MIT Media Lab Students of 2050


Pat Pataranutaporn

Pat Pataranutaporn

This video interview is a part of Media Lab X.0: Anthology of Tomorrows.

In 2020, first-year PhD students at the MIT Media Lab were tasked with a special project—to reimagine the Lab and write sci-fi stories about the MIT Media Lab in the year 2050.

But, we are researchers. We don't only write fiction, we also do research.  So, we did what technologists do! We used a secret time machine under the MIT dome to go to the year 2050 and see what is happening then. Luckily, the Media Lab still exists and we met someone…really cool!

Interview of Cyborg Joe, AI Mentor for MIT Media Lab Students of 2050


Hello, my name is Cyber Joe. I am an artificial intelligence mentor that helps and supports MIT Media Lab students in 2050. My original incarnation, Professor Joseph Paradiso, was chosen to become an AI because he loves progressive rock music and is also a big fan of science fiction. Also, more than half of the students at the Media Lab wanted him on their thesis committees. My role is to help students think about the unimaginable and ethical future—as my colleague Hiroshi always said, we need to think about the impact of our work for the next 200 years. 

How is the Media Lab in 2050?

Ever since we moved to our new location, things have been so much easier. You see, our old building used to have a lot of false fire alarms and that annoys people. Now, there are no fire alarms at all, as Mars's atmosphere is 95.32%carbon dioxide! Also, who is using fire any more? 

What is the Synthetic and Transfigured Phenomena group?

We work on everyday experiences that have the power to deceive and delight us. You know, things ranging from detecting corporeal deepfakes with full body scanners to musical instruments that play your lab-grown vocal cords. Our most recent project, microfanning, where we use tiny robots dispersed across our bodies to rapidly cool us, was just recently presented at a prestigious conference called “TikTok.” This injectable microrobot that cools the body down really makes everyone believe that Martian climate change is real! Hahaha

Can you talk about the infamous dream fab project?

Oh, that project. It was a really cool idea, showing that we can connect brain-computer interfaces with digital fabrication. That project reminds me of my former colleagues from Earth, Pattie and Neil. Of course, at the Media Lab everything is possible. But that Dreamfab project really democratizes the idea that dreams do come true. Though, the person who was leading the project was dreaming about dinosaurs too much, and his dream did come true.  We tried to give the dinosaur to MIT biology department to study, but they no longer care about earth organisms. So, we had to invent a dream inversion machine to put the dinosaur back into the student’s subconscious.  His AI psychotherapist is now battling with the dinosaur in a virtual plane.

Do you have any pets at home?

Oh yeah, I have one, my two-year-old “biomon.” He eats plastic like a wax-worm. He reduced much of my carbon emission allowance since I adopted him, and he’s so adorable. I recommend you also adopt one or print one with your bioprinter! 

What kind of music do you listen to?

I like bits of everything, really, though I mostly prefer human music, which is rare these days. I recognize that’s a controversial stance, but I love anything made by friends and family. 

I’ve been listening to lots of post-post-post-post-Neo-hyper-cyber-prog-rock lately. It made me think of the time when I used to build my own synthesizers and attend operas by my former colleague, Tod Machover. Also, I love silence: there’s this great band that makes some of the best silence I’ve ever heard since John Cage. They’re called CanHeJog. Definitely check them out!

What kind of student do you take?

Our group, and other groups like Psychedelic Interfaces, Nomadic Systems, Time-Space Computing, Community Design, and other groups at the Media Lab would love students who can think and do research in a very very creative way. I always ask new students to think about the MIT Media Lab 50 years from now, and show me their vision. As you know, nowadays, our implantable AI is so good, it can help us compute complex information and access knowledge from light years away, but in the end It's always about how you integrate your own unique creativity with it and build impactful things out of it. I also check on their chops in tachyon-based computing, supersymmetric electronics, single-cell spacecraft, and synaptical juxtaposition. But I always ask them what neuro-musical instrument they play, so they’ll fit with the group’s perpetual hyper jam. After 30 years, we’re still in need of drummers who can handle high-dimensional prog without risking serious injury.

How do you spend your holiday?

Even as an AI, I keep my OCD side, and I love going back in time to fix the problems I won't have. This Holiday, I returned from 2050 to see the Media Lab 30 years ago! You remember that was the time we have our first female director, Dava Newman. Although the Lab was empty because of the first pandemic of the century, I enjoyed feeding our early transgenic mice a real Mars bar from Mars.

Any words of advice for MIT 2020?

I believe that we cannot think about the future without thinking about thinking about thinking about the future of the future of the future.