Rebecca Robbins in Stat:
The new immersive art installation here in the heart of Silicon Valley was dreamed up by David Byrne, the front man of the Talking Heads, and loosely modeled after the work of neuroscience and psychology labs at top institutions like Caltech and Harvard.
So when I showed up at a warehouse on a rainy Sunday morning earlier this month, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
What I experienced was light on science but heavy on amusing novelty. I trekked with a group of nine fellow visitors through four rooms, each the site of a quasi-scientific experiment. After an hour, I’d navigated moral dilemmas, got tricked into believing a moving object was standing still, predicted (with limited success) the winners of an election, and found myself experiencing life as though I’d been turned into a doll.
The vibe could hardly get more surreal.
At a point, one of our guides, cloaked in a lime-green lab coat, capped off a discussion about the unreliability of our gut instinct and our vision by musing: “Is it possible that we’re surrogate avatars walking around interacting with and processing data in our virtual reality? Do you think that I’m real? Do you think that you’re real? And what is reality?”
The installation, dubbed “The Institute Presents: Neurosociety,” was co-created by Byrne, a science enthusiast. For this project, Byrne and his collaborator, the technology investor Mala Gaonkar, went on something of a listening tour of research labs around the world to gather ideas, advice, and source material.