Human Processing Unit (HPU)

1.  Mechanical Turk, also know as “The Turk” was a fake chess-playing machine
constructed in the late 18th century. It was a mechanical illusion that allowed a human chess master hiding inside to operate the machine.

2.  CPU is short for a central processing unit. It is the electronic circuitry within
a computer that carries out the instructions of a computer program by performing the basic arithmetic, logical, control and input/output operations specified by the instructions.


In the 2018 visiting designer series E Roon Kang of Math Practice, asked students to create a system that used input, processing, and output. Given this brief and my love for systems I immediately thought of puzzles. Kang, however, pushed me to make a more personal statement about my interests in the human relationship with computing. I decided to make a human processing unit (or HPU). This wordplay reconfigures the thought experiment1 of a human brain in the place of the CPU.2 The HPU is a system of inputs (user behavior and characteristics), processing (human operated graphical generation based on a set of prebuilt criteria), and a single output3 (a graphical composition based on the user’s behaviors and characteristics).

I would engage the user in a space with four posters and a video projection mapped onto the space to create live feedback based on the user’s inputs. The user would enter the live space and place one indicator per poster. As the user entered the live area the digital projection would begin to overlay a unique mark based on their inputs. The purpose of this project was to question the human in context of the computer. What inputs, as humans, can we process that computers can’t? Adding specific physical characteristics of the user as inputs allowed for me, as the HPU, to make human observations different from the processing abilities of the computer.