Future Human

What Happens When a Computer Runs Your Life

This software engineer let an algorithm pick where he lives, what he does—even what tattoo to get. Is he onto something?

Ahmed Kabil
Published in
9 min readJul 2, 2018


Hawkins’ Random Place to Live program sent him to areas of Slovenia, Japan, India, Taiwan, and Dubai. He’s pictured here in Essen, Germany.

MMax Hawkins will be getting his first tattoo in a few days, and the panic’s setting in. Not because it’s a permanent choice — although it certainly is. And not because of the pain — he thinks that’ll be manageable enough. Hawkins is panicking because until the moment he walks into the parlor, he won’t have any idea what tattoo he’s getting, or where on his body he’s getting it.

The random tattoo generator he’s built searches Google Images’ line drawings, taking a sample of the Internet’s offerings by choosing keywords in proportion to how frequency they’re used. By pressing a button, he is offered up a random image for a random part of his body. He’s been testing the generator, and it works. But a preview of the possibilities is not especially encouraging.

Hawkins’ random tattoo generator in action. Photo: Cowan Whitfield

One, for the left thigh, depicts a floor plan with room descriptions rendered in the font Papyrus. Another, of a person bound, gagged, and hogtied to a…