I Play, Therefore I Am


Mark Pesce, 37, who took a leave from his position as chair of the Interactive Media Program at the University of Southern California to become a full-time author. His fourth book, The Playful World: How Technology Is Transforming Our Imagination, was released by Ballantine Books last month.


“If you want to understand the 21st century, look at new toys like My Real Baby and Miracle Moves, due out this fall. These dolls have even greater reactive intelligence than Furby. And the LEGO Mindstorms system has active material, with preprogrammed intelligence, that allows kids to program robots to perform commands. I call this the playful world, a place thoroughly infused with intelligence and that listens and responds.”

So What?

“The relationships that children develop with their toys will transfer to everyday tools — cars, refrigerators, TVs — which will react to us and perform according to our needs. As the line blurs between toy and tool, animate and inanimate, adults may feel disoriented, but children won’t. Their toys will teach them an intuitive understanding of robotics, as well as how to maintain a sense of self in the playful world.”

Ellen McCarty ( writes from the San Francisco Bay area. Contact Mark Pesce by email (