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Adam Savage of ‘MythBusters’ on technology, skepticism, and his ‘happiness machine’

Molly Wood Nov 20, 2013
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Anyone who’s indulged in libations before is probably familiar with the panoply of myths about how to sober up fast. There’s the cold shower routine. Or you can try chugging a pot of hot coffee. Some even say going for a jog will snap you out of your drunken stupor. But what about a hard slap to the face?

While most of us are happy to trade rumor and conjecture about whether these methods work, there are two men in this world who will go great lengths to put myths like these to the test. Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman have become famous over the last decade pulling stunts to put commonly held beliefs to the test as the hosts of the Discovery Channel’s megahit “MythBusters.” (By the way, it’s the slap that will sober you up most, as demonstrated by a seriously schknockered Savage getting smacked in this video.)

Starting tomorrow, the MythBusters will embark on a month-long live tour. Savage called up Marketplace Tech to talk about the use of technology on his show, in our lives, and about a piece of tech he built for himself that a friend refers to as his “happiness machine.”

When it comes to his show, Savage says that the “MythBusters” crew tries to stay as low-tech as possible when testing an idea in order to pull the curtain back on the process for the audience.

“Technology is usually there to let some process go on hidden in the background,” Savage says. “For us on ‘MythBusters,’ we’re always trying to make the process apparent. So, we have learned to try and never rely on a technological solution when an analogue one is in front of us.”

Savage, who calls himself a “dyed in the wool skeptic and critical thinker,” says all the new technology in our world creates fascinating juxtapositions and leaves us as a society with important choices to make.

“Right now, we’re living in an age with more science and technology in our daily lives than ever before,” he says. “At the same time, those beautiful applications that allow cameras to recognize your face also allow our governments to surveil us and our privacy to be invaded. And, technology is something that it’s not neutral. You have choose societally [sic], culturally how you’re going to use it.”

But don’t think that makes Savage a total pessimist about the direction our world in moving in. He says the ongoing debate over government surveillence is proof all hope is not lost.

“I am incrementally a pessimist, but I see the international debate that Edward Snowden has engendered and I think, this is exactly where the discussion should be. So, I would say I’m more optimistic than pessimistic.”

An avid movie prop collector, Savage says his favorite piece of memorabilia is one he built himself, a fully remote controlled R2-D2. “As my best friend said when I started building it, he said, ‘You know what you’re doing? You’re building a happiness machine. Because there’s no way that you can actually be unhappy if R2-D2 is in your house.”

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