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VA-PEPR’s Interactive installation “Money Talks” showcased at re:publica 23, in Berlin

Money Talks is an installation that surfaces our power and financial relationships with voice driven AI services.

Informed by the Speculative Design Phase of the project, the VA-PEPR team exhibited the interactive installation “Money Talks” at re:publica 23 in Berlin, between June 5-7, 2023.

Money Talks is a freestanding interactive artwork that presents an exploded view of the true costs of a voice assistant. It is an installation that lifts the curtain on our power dynamics and financial relationships with speech recognition AI. At a time when we are increasingly paying for our AI in our lives, we have paused to think “how much is this costing” and “what is the true cost here?”. Machines that listen make us believe that it is cost free. It uses very little power (in your home); it costs a few euros to install; the service has either no or a very small monthly charge. All of these are an illusion, and it doesn’t take much to break the surface of this black mirror. Once we stray from the consumer path, we start to see the real cost of the power consumed (by the servers running AI), the cities of e-waste in far off places, the price plans (per word, per minute or per hour). It doesn’t take much to expose these costs – yet who does this? Even the most diehard climate denier doesn’t deny that jetting around the world burns fuel. Yet all of these AI and cloud-based services are doing far more than the aviation industry, and nobody seems to know or care. We want you to know. We want you to see. We want you to care. We want to do something about this. Money Talks is a call to action that started with CASH-themed re:publica 23.  

How does it work?

Money Talks invites participants to talk into a microphone and a large flow of words appear through the chart seamlessly switching between printed text and lines and display material. Screens are hidden behind plywood facings with cut-through areas to reveal interactive text and images in novel, imaginative ways. With this interaction, it opens people’s minds to the many hidden costs of AI, voice technologies and planetary resources.

Big congratulations to Mike Shorter, Jon Rogers, Sabine Junginger, Aurelio Todisco, Aysun Aytaç and Paola Pierri.