Time to explore the form for the Big Data project, code name: DEATH BOT.

The bot is designed as a digital assistant for the human.  To collate, secure and then shut down all digital presence of that person when they die.  Historically, what can this relate to?

In ancient Egyptian times, Pharaohs took ‘servants’ to the grave with them to do their bidding in the afterlife.  These were actually tiny figurines called ushabti or shabti.  If this bot is designed to kill your digital life after you die, then it can be seen as a posthumous servant.  In Japanese history, a similar belief was held, (that the afterlife was just that, another life to be lived) but felt that Japanese nobility required protection after death.  When buried they were surrounded by a circle of terracotta protectors known as Haniwa (‘circle of clay’).    Rather than a servant, these were designed to protect.  This angle suits the ethos of this project better: a digital guardian angel.

c.250–552 CE these Haniwa were un-fired terracotta cylinders like this:

haniwa pot

This is the form I shall be recreating.  In an ironic turn of events, it also looks very similar to the Amazon Echo:


If I can make the bot as an actual terracotta pot then the plan is to smash the pot into the grave with the dead body: digital and physical death.  Ashes to ashes, data to data.

So I’ve been making this very form!  Big thanks to Tom Fantom for recreating this form in CAD for me!

I have had the model cut on the CNC machine, glued it together……..and then bashed the heck out it!  I needs to be aged.  Something designed to die needs to have the physical embodiment of age.  I held back a little as I didn’t want to break the model, but it is nicely seasoned.


Next stage: mould making!  To cast this in clay, I need to make a mould (like a jelly mould), so I can fill it with slip (liquid clay), and make the pot.  Here is the mould:


It’s my first ever one (thanks to Rhys Thomas for the help), so it is a bit rough, but I think it will work.  Also, it is MASSIVE!  The mould is so heavy and is roughly the size of a toilet cistern.  Why so big, I hear you ask.  Well, traditional Haniwa were no less than 30cm (1 foot) high.  This is about 35cm.  It needs to be authentic.

At time of writing, the mould is drying, but I hope to start the slip process in a few days time.  Only then will we find out if the mould has worked!!

One thing I can say is I know how the bot needs to be interacted with.  Touch.  Double hands clasping the artefact.  Like an embrace.  This will be indicated on the bot, (pot?) by a subtle impression I will place into the wet, unset clay.  Why this interaction?  Because it is human to touch.  To feel, caress, to hold.  Also, for security reasons, it needs multiple fingerprint recognition and and nip of your DNA to be sure it is you.

You can’t be too careful.

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