It was with a degree of bravado, humour and cake that digital supremos Simon Waterfall and Daljit Singh lectured on “Digital Design Futures” at another Google Design Lecture at the V&A. It turns out that change is nigh and that does not refer to the impending release of the iphone 5. Simon and Daljit looked at the implications that future changes in technology will have on the way we communicate and interact in that murky, scary-sounding future. Their prognosis, though inspecific and in a sense ‘fictional’, did not sound too good, at least to a 22 year-old who already feels nostalgic.
Simon and Daljit based their theories around the understanding that thinking about the future involves a scientific and imaginative mental process– a cacophony of logical thinking, facts and credibility; juxtaposed with the uncertain, slightly bonkers and creative Mystic Meg role of predicting the future. As such, their discussion centred on changes that had taken place so far, potential snares and warnings of the future digiworld (it turns out that there are a lot) and also the plain crazy, as design fails to support human functioning. They incorporated these into several key points, which I will attempt to reveal to you now- an ‘attempt’ as I was mainly scrawling in the darkness of the lecture room.
1) Too much future is a bad thing.
Their premise was that as a product develops, it becomes faster, smaller, more efficient and can hold more information- all-in-all a good thing UNTIL that product becomes too small and too crammed with information to use. Imagine here that phone with the buttons too small, or that over-complicated watch. As such, there exists a natural size/limit for products, which we may well have reached now.
2) Real stuff stops the future.
In other words- geography does matter. There needs to be the physical materials to support any technology transformations, or to quote their example- the Chinese government cannot achieve their super-plan to provide every Chinese person with internet, due to a world lack of copper that would be needed for the wiring.
3) In the future, there is a need to preduct design impact with responsibility.
Partially re-iterating the words from last week’s lecture, this means design planning for unintended consequences and mitigating for them. For example, dealing with the rise in car-crime following the introduction of the Tom-Tom into our cars; and preparing for a potential rise in bullying and child-on-child crime with the invention of the phoneswipe payment system.
4) There is no more shouting in the future.
Beware the information time-bomb. As people are bombarded with more and more marketing messages a day, the argument is that soon they will not take them in and will leave the shop undecided and emptyhanded. As a result, Simon and Daljit predict a focus towards reduced consumer choice and informed opinions about products.
5) Less humanity.
Social media leading to reduced intimacy, and a ‘maintenance’ only means of communication. Need I say more?
6) That ‘delete’ button disappears.
With an increase in data and new means to store it (all billion gigabytes of the stuff), there will be no need to delete. This means that drunken photo will quite literally haunt you forever.
7) The cyber-junk tipping point.
Apparently there are so many satellites up there that there is a high risk of collision. When this happens one satellite will become thousands of pieces, leading to even more junk, and subsequently even more collisions. Simon and Daljit therefore heed the “we are screwed” stance, as with the failure of the satellites, our communication systems will become an ominous “black-hole”.
8 ) Nothing starts or finishes in the future.
Our obsession with updating or wanting the latest it-thing is likely to be our downfall as without an on/off button it will become ever-difficult to mentally switch-off and relax.
9) How you receive a message will be as important as its content.
We will continue to ignore the “junk-mail”, but now there will be new means to get someone’s attention and ways to prioritise what gets read and what makes that short trip to the trashcan.
10) The Future will have echoes of the past.
Design will need to make the way for imperfections, as it is these that Simon and Daljit believe are integral to maintaining credibility and that all important humanity.
11) The impossible will become valuable.
As the difficult and unbelievable become the norm, new ambitions and challenges will have to be made, which will be more rewarding.
12) Can we design a new emotion for the future?
13) What is the currency of the future?
Craft, individual hard graft. and as an example, delicious home-made cake.