Back in September, I traveled to Singapore for FutureEverything’s week of events there, in part to kick off a weeklong innovation lab. One of the installations of the event was the Chronarium
, a temporary public sleep lab, which used light and music to guide visitors into a brief restful state, perhaps even to sleep. While a commentary on how much modern life takes from us in terms of recuperative rest, Chronarium investigated ways that technology might give back, instead of steal, sleep.
Ironically, I never got to use the lab, only a few minutes down the street, as I was occupied with the ever-unfolding needs generated by the lab I was working in, and associated event activities. It might have been useful to grab a visit, as I and my colleagues had to adjust to the time difference and lack of quality sleep in order to participate in this event to begin with.
But this is the modern condition, is it not? During the Industrial Revolution, the “contract” that offered some of our ancestors higher living standards asked for a payment in the currency of sleep in return. Not waking was not working, which was not producing, which was not allowed
. Marx posited the worker of the day
needed ten to twelve hours of sleep to be able to give capitalism what it wanted in terms of labor. Productivity, as a source of perpetual growth, eats
and all that it provides. And precarity, among other things, has driven up the exchange rate of sleep. We’re now being told we can sleep in our hoodies
. Even Davos Man/Woman is pushing back
But nowadays, access to technology, a proxy for wealth, promises to provide us ways to buy back sleep (even as it sucks more out of us
). Quantified self/IoT devices and apps claim to help us sleep better, get the right amount of sleep (a promise they can’t keep), and even keep us safe
while we sleep—all of which counterproductively churns up even more sleep-eating insecurity (horribly, my only interaction with Siri is around setting and canceling alarms).
So, this week I’ve collected some items related to the somnambulistic treadmill. Please don’t read it after 10PM.