Steve Lambert, New York based artist, says we do not get enough visions of the future ‘from the right people’. Usually, visions of the future come from those who are motivated by making money, business people, and this does not always make for the best future for all people.
We need to hear more from those who are not preoccupied by a desire to gain financially; we need to hear from artists and activists. The problem is, however, that these people overwhelmingly do not plan to win. They do not intend to create change where they see it to be necessary.
Lambert claims that these people need to start to have this intention and to believe that it is possible; we need ‘visions of success’ for the ‘other side’. It should not only be business people who are taken seriously when proposing ideas of what success is, or of how to change the world. Because this is the way things commonly have been, it is often blindly accepted as correct, but artists need to be able to express their ideas of what success would be, and to be taken seriously in doing so. And in order to do this, Lambert says that artists need to use the successful processes that business people use, in order to ‘plan to win’.
Samantha Lee – (AADipl. RIBA II) is an independent designer and visual artist with a background in architecture. She is creative director and co-founder of the Universal Assembly Unit, a cross-disciplinary space animation studio.
‘Refuge or Resource; the battle between nature as resource vs its preservation as a pristine wilderness’. A continuous challenge, Lee states, is that of how to compare the economic benefits of development and of use of the earth’s natural resources, with the cost of environmental degradation.
This common problem is particularly complex because not only is it difficult to measure the benefits and costs of each on a single scale, but the measurements we do have are usually highly uncertain; we are tryingto compare two very different kinds of benefit or loss on one scale, and what’s more, the very measurements we have to begin with are highly controversial. I.e. how do we put an economic value on an entire eco-system?
We are dealing with technologies which need to be understood in timescales that have been previously quite unimaginable to us, so we rely on predictions based on western science, the greatest tools we seem to have to deal with these uncertainties.
Lee offers a speculation in response to her outlined problem; Lee says that we understand nature as a cultural construction, and that perhaps we ought to focus on a new way of reading nature. As nature is already ‘the most advance super computer’, could we program a landscape to calculate its own future, by using the landscape as a ‘probability machine’? Lee offers a very interesting illustration of her speculation.
Tim Brooke – creative technologist at global creative company, Moving Brands, here shares his thoughts on the ‘Internet of Things’ – the world of connected devices, or ‘ubiquitous computing’, and how we can make these more accessible to people.
There is, Tim states, the possibility that all objects, especially everyday objects, can ‘get a little bit of computing power in them’ so that they are accessible and controllable from the Internet. This could massively improve the utility of these objects for all, however, this potential is stunted by the fact that to build these things requires such an enormous range of skills, that very few people are able to do it. This results, Tim states, in very few companies producing connected devices, and largely those devices that are produced are produced for the sake of producing them, and not because they can help or be of use to people. So, how do we engage more people in building these kinds of systems?
Tim offers three possible solutions. Firstly, the idea that those with the required skills produce objects that are almost complete, thereby allowing the user to finish the object, adding to it the functionality that they are interested in. But how ‘tweakable’ can such objects be that a non-skilled end user would be able to actually adapt it to his or her own use?
The second proposed solution; to offer users ‘kits’ in which they receive parts that they can put together, thereby building the device of their choice. This solution is seemingly an improvement on the first, however, the issue of the limits to the possible functionality of the devices is again present.
Tim’s final solution; that of equipping people with the actual skills necessary to build these devices themselves, or, in a practical sense, to bringing together different people equipped with different individual skills, and collectively with all the skills necessary to build connected devices.
So, does any one of these solutions work? Does a combination of the options proposed look promising? Or is it something entirely new that we need to consider, in order to progress the Internet of Things to begin to achieve its enormous potential?
Aubrey de Grey – ‘The biggest challenge humanity faces; the challenge of age related ill health’. For de Grey it is simple; by far the biggest problem that we face today is the problem that everyone gets sick if they live long enough. Ageing is, de Grey believes, the greatest source of suffering in the world, and therefore, it is simply the most important issue for us to address. Therefore, the most important goal for us to work towards is to bring ageing under medical control, to stop people getting sick as they get old.
We should no longer consider old age and the diseases of old age to be things we need to understand, or to be ‘just how nature works’. Rather, we can now consider them to be parts of technology; areas in which we apply our understanding of how nature works in order to develop tools to improve this, this is, he states, how medicine works, after all.
So, how do we do this? The solution is simple, de Grey believes; we can bring to use a number of biological and biomedical technologies that have been already developed for other reasons, to address this pivotal issue by repairing the issues that arise as we grow older. So, we cannot deny that we will grow old, but we can turn back the clock in terms of the damage caused. By using existing technologies, we can repair the accumulating biological damage that causes the diseases of old age.
Our third contributor to the site, Bill Thompson, is a technology writer and commentator on the ever-changing world of digital culture.
Bill is a pioneer of new media in the UK and was Internet ambassador for PIPEX, the UK’s first ever Internet Service Provider, as well as founding The Guardian’s New Media Lab in 1995; setting up and editing the first Guardian website.
We were delighted that Bill was happy to contribute to Confravision: Bill has undoubtedly had the closest relationships with the birth and development of the online world of all those we have been in touch with, and arguably sits up there amongst those most knowledgable in this field more generally. We cannot think of an expert more suited to contributing to the current and highly significant debate around the issue of privacy in the online world. The more we have come to rely on the online world, the greater our need for privacy in this sphere, yet, as Bill states, it is now effectively non-existent.
‘The crisis of privacy, we are always being monitored online’ is arguably more a statement of a current than a future challenge, but it is an ongoing problem that will develop and continue to exist into the future if it is not addressed now. This video comments discusses questions such as, how do we continue to enjoy and use the online world, whilst defending our right to privacy? And does it really matter if someone watches me if I am doing nothing wrong? Bill proposes two possible solutions to this problem, a technical and a political proposal, and although hard to disagree with, it seems as if something is missing; if the solutions are so simple, what is standing in our way?
Michael Wolff, a man approaching what most would describe as ‘old age’, is certainly not ready to lose interest in progress, innovation and design, and neither are other older people, he states, as he outlines what he deems to be one of the big challenges of today, that ‘the elderly of today are being left behind’.
Wolff’s contribution to the Confravision site is a brilliant statement of a present-day challenge and a multi-faceted solution which appeals both to the practical as well as to the emotional.
Technology becomes increasingly pivotal and integral in all that we are concerned with, and we devote more and more time to its development, yet in our consideration of it, the older population are being forgotten, left out of discussions and considerations in how we progress. Noting the very topical issue of the ageing population, Wolff makes some brilliant and undeniable points – we are neglecting to address the needs of this increasing part of society, and thereby missing a trick – the elderly, more and more, constitute a large potential market that is going untapped. Not to mention the ethical reasons for why we ought to stop ignoring the elderly!
Wolff points out that we are not without talent and expertise in this country, so, why do the industries of design and technology seem to just be blind to this group?
The solution? Inclusive design, which is both more effective, but also the only way to prevent other, international markets from taking advantage of this otherwise missed opportunity. Design and technology needs to recognise its ever changing market; the demographic of the society we live in. Wake up and seize this huge opportunity!
Here’s liftoff! We are delighted to have received our first contribution to the platform! Ross Jackson, businessman and IT consultant, CEO of Gaia Trust, a charitable entity he co-founded to promote a more sustainable and spiritual world, and director of a leading organic foods wholesaler in Scandinavia (Urtekram), delivers a fantastic and engaging presentation of the problem of sustainability and what we can do to try and improve this.
This is a brilliant opening discussion on the Confravision platform: it addresses a challenge of today that is being caused by a major, worldwide organisation and that concerns all of us, but it also looks more widely to the issue of when economics and business concerns are given greater priority than the health of the natural world in which we live.
In his proposed solution to the challenge presented, Jackson criticises the neoliberal economic system of today, and simultaneously suggests that small countries and organisations need to stand together, and bravely breakaway from the current system, to establish something new and better.
This presentation sets up a wider discussion of alternative economics systems, and is therefore a brilliant starting discussion for the Confravision platform.