Fun with robots and fire at Yahoo!

Mark Pauline of Survival Research Labs at Yahoo! This week has been a VERY cool work week. Closing out my first week, I attended an amazing lunch-time presentation by Mark Pauline, founder and director of Survival Research Labs, a talk put together by my boss Bradley Horowitz as part of a regular series here at Yahoo!

How to describe SRL? Well, you could look at the description on their site:

Survival Research Laboratories was conceived of and founded by Mark Pauline in November 1978. Since its inception SRL has operated as an organization of creative technicians dedicated to re-directing the techniques, tools, and tenets of industry, science, and the military away from their typical manifestations in practicality, product or warfare. Since 1979, SRL has staged over 45 mechanized presentations in the United States and Europe. Each performance consists of a unique set of ritualized interactions between machines, robots, and special effects devices, employed in developing themes of socio-political satire. Humans are present only as audience or operators.

For me, it was just as interesting to look at the Flickr tag “srl” and the related tags:

The last performance SRL did was in downtown Los Angeles (covered nicely on BoingBoing), so if you look past the location tags (“downtown” and “losangeles”, of course), you’re left with art, performance, machines (like the deliciously insane Pitching Machine), robots, and fire. That sums it up to a certain degree, but it wasn’t your typical pretentious run-of-the-mill performance art. What Mark Pauline really is is an extraordinary hacker whose work has artistic implications, but with absolutely zero pretention. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from someone who others might describe as a “performance artist,” but he had the demeanor of a very thoughtful and determined hacker who really enjoyed working with people to build cool stuff and make it work. I left the session inspired and excited to get back to work. (It sure as hell beat the lunch-time “Getting the Most out of Microsoft Word” sessions offered at most companies.)

Of course, Yahoo! is doing a lot of hiring, so if you’re passionate and talented and this is the kind of thing that inspires you and gets your creative juices flowing, be sure to search the jobs database. If you need more encouragement, read this interview with Prabhakar Raghavan, our new head of research. I read this interview right after I accepted the offer from Yahoo! and it left me with one thought: get me there now.