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What is it?

These eight lights show a binary number, increasing twice a second. When it fills up all the lights, about every 2 minutes, 8 seconds, it resets and the colors change.

I‌ ‌think‌ ‌of‌ ‌these‌ ‌“bit‌ ‌counters”‌ ‌as‌ ‌a‌ ‌timepiece‌ ‌designed‌ ‌by‌ ‌computers,‌ ‌where‌ ‌we‌ ‌humans‌ ‌ have‌ ‌to‌ ‌adapt‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌most‌ ‌convenient‌ ‌method‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌system,‌ ‌rather‌ ‌than‌ ‌the‌ ‌other‌ ‌way‌ ‌ around.‌ ‌ ‌

They‌ ‌mark‌ ‌the‌ ‌passing‌ ‌of‌ ‌time‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌less‌ ‌human-conforming‌ ‌way,‌ ‌quietly‌ ‌changing‌ ‌their‌ ‌ environment;‌ ‌a‌ dappled light changing ‌over‌ ‌the‌ ‌course‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌day.‌ ‌

The‌ ‌addition‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌few‌ ‌extra‌ ‌lights‌ ‌makes‌ ‌a‌ ‌big‌ ‌difference‌ ‌in‌ ‌how‌ ‌long‌ ‌it‌ ‌takes‌ ‌to‌ ‌fill‌ ‌up:‌ ‌

Number of lights (bits) Number of ticks Amount of time, at two ticks/second
8 256 2 minutes, 8 seconds
16 65536 9 hours, 6 minutes, 8 seconds
24 16777216 13 weeks, 6 days, 2 hours, 10 minutes, 7 seconds
32 4294967296 68 years, 2 weeks, 5 days, 3 hours, 14 minutes, 6 seconds

It’s hard to imagine that a few extra lights could have such an impact. To me, this geometric increase speaks to the unintended complexities of any system of technology. A creator might think they’re just sprinkling in a new feature or two—but it’s not always possible to imagine the ramifications when they’re released into a wider system.

The larger the system, the larger the number of possible interactions; the peril, the promise.

Appearances

The Washington Post: In the galleries

How was it made?

Exhibitions

Roles

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