What better place than the Powerhouse Museum to contemplate our future. The Museum’s vast collection has archived over 200 years of Australian related history. By looking to our collection and exhibitions we are able to determine where we have come from and who we have become. However eternally unsatisfied with straight forward answers I want to know who we are becoming.
It may seem of science-fiction but emerging technologies indicate your take-away meal may be delivered by drones using your GPS coordinates to locate you, your clothing will most certainly be self cleaning (a technology already used for self-cleaning concrete), and you will be wearing interactive glasses. One thing is for sure, the future is now.
Surveillance always comes to mind when we talk of drones and it is becoming less obvious. Humming birds though, may find it difficult not to stand out in the Australian environment. However there are many uses for drones, photography being one.
What we are seeing is a near future where our lives are becoming intricately connected to new technologies, for better or worse. We are experiencing an age of hyperconnectivity.
Many of us are becoming highly concerned about our interaction with and through digital technologies and profess that these very technologies used for convenience are intrinsically transforming us and determining what we become. Sherry Turkle has based her thesis on the observation that technology is making us ‘alone together’. Turkle identifies that we need to learn to give full attention and value to the real rather than the ephemeral.
As connectivity now extends to the individual in a way it had never done before through mobile devices Turkle may be right in saying technology ‘catalyzes changes not only in what we do but in how we think’.
A recent review of an episode of the new HBO series ‘Girls‘ where the millennial generation character Hannah shares her experiences on Twitter nicely reveals how we interact with new technologies. Hannah tweets her ordeal. She edits and re-edits as she has learned to do on a public platform.
“When her roommate Marnie arrives in the doorway, Hannah tells her about her bad night; the women talk and laugh and dance together. There’s no clear transition in this scene between what’s online and what’s off—Hannah doesn’t have to choose, one leads to the other. She’s upset, and she’s saying so in public, but that online blurt is mediated, and it’s edited: a skill she’s learned through practice, because she’s grown up learning to do that. It’s a way of speaking that lies between writing and conversation, intimacy and theatre”.
We are learning to occupy both arenas. What may be isolation for some, is connectivity for others.
If we compare the tsunami of 2004 and the recent tsunami warning of 11 April 2012 we can see a marked difference. At the time of the first tsunami not many people had smart phones resulting in widespread devastation. Yet last month there were warnings on the twitter-sphere, images of evacuations and you could track what was happening all around the world through people’s networks. Connectivity has empowered people.
The 2011Tohoku earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan gave birth to Safecast a service providing radiation measurements that the Japanese Government found too sensitive to reveal. It needed connectivity for the information to be released.
It’s not the first time we have tried to imagine our future, however there is a lot of good to be had from connectivity. As the work of designers is to solve issues and problems of the time, make life more livable, create and innovate, it is of great importance to understand the way we are evolving, the way we interact with each other and with machines. Where this can take us in the future is difficult to predict fully. It is a progression that can’t be stopped.