The opening keynote from the inaugural HTML Special held before CSS Day 2016 in Amsterdam.
The future is not an accident. The future doesn’t just happen. The future is built everyday by the actions of people. But before you can build the future you have to imagine it. Join internationally renowned futurist Brian David Johnson to explore how we can design our futures and then go about building them. Johnson will share his framework and process as well as a recent example: Open source 3D printable Robots! Born in science fiction a decade ago and now walking, talking and joking their way into the hearts, minds and imagination of kids and grownups all over the world.
The future is Brian David Johnson’s business. As a futurist he develops an actionable 10-15 year vision for the future of technology and what it will feel like to live in the future. His work is called “futurecasting”—using ethnographic field studies, technology research, trend data, and even science fiction to provide a pragmatic vision of consumers and computing. Johnson works with governments, militaries, trade organizations, start-ups and multinational corporations to help them envision their future. He was appointed first futurist ever at the Intel Corporation in 2009.
Johnson speaks and writes extensively about future technologies in articles (The Wall Street Journal, Slate, IEEE Computer, Successful Farming) and both science fiction and fact books (21st Century Robot, Vintage Tomorrows, Science Fiction Prototyping, and Fake Plastic Love). Johnson lectures around the world and teaches as a professor at The University of Washington and The California College of the Arts MBA program. He appears regularly on Bloomberg TV, PBS, FOX News, and the Discovery Channel and has been featured in Scientific American, The Technology Review, Forbes, INC, and Popular Science. He has directed two feature films and is an illustrator and commissioned painter.
What did you imagine the early 21st century would look like when you were a kid? Was it all flying cars and jetpacks? Daily trips to the moon and hoverboards back here on Earth? Or were you more enamoured with the darker sides of futurism? Perhaps Doomsday prophecies and the ravages of Future Shock were on your mind. Did you sit up nights worrying about acid rain and environmental degradation?
How we imagine the future says a lot about us both as individuals and as groups. And by studying past visions of the future we can not only gain new insights into history, but we might even learn something about where we’re heading today.
Matt Novak’s talk, “A Brief History of Tomorrow”, looks at the history of invention and imagination — from robot vacuum cleaners of the 1950s to visions of the internet before the internet even existed. He’ll trace the history of popular ideas about how we’d be living here in the year 2015, and debunk a few common historical myths along the way. No matter how talented our prognosticators, we often discover that the future is never exactly as anyone predicted. Which is precisely what makes studying it so much fun.
Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo’s Paleofuture blog, which looks at past visions of the future. He explores the history of our most optimistic dreams and our most pessimistic fears by looking at everything from flying cars and utopian communities to overpopulation and complete societal collapse. His work is inspired by his private collection of retro-futuristic artifacts, including hundreds of vintage tech magazines, space age lunchboxes, 1980s videophones, among hundreds of other pieces. Matt started the Paleofuture blog independently in 2007 and it was later acquired by Smithsonian magazine in 2011 and then by Gawker Media in 2013. He currently lives in Los Angeles, a city which has about four years until it’s set to achieve the utopia depicted in the 1982 documentary Blade Runner.
Cooper: “I thought they chose me. But they didn’t choose me, they chose her!”
TARS: “For what, Cooper?”
Cooper: “To save the world!”
If we’re going to talk about designing the future, let’s understand two things - who is doing the designing, and who is this future for, anyway?
Much of our cultural upbringing, from the pages of comics, to the Hollywood studios, repeatedly told us that we could step up and be the heroes. We’re programmed to feel that we’re the ones who will make the difference.
It’s time to look further than the end of our own egos, because there are problems coming we can’t find answers to, because we’re products of the system that created them.
Instead, whether we’re designers or clients, peers or parents, we must switch our attention to Metadesign; “nurturing the emergence of the previously unthinkable” in those around us, and those who will come after us.
It’s about ideas and environments, books and blocks, objects and systems, all examined through the contents and context of the most intriguing bedroom in sci-fi.
John Willshire is the founder of innovation studio, Smithery.
Smithery helps organisations Make Things People Want, rather than Make People Want Things. It lies somewhere on a strange map that features Product & Service Design, Research, Media, Marketing, Innovation and Organisational theory.
A proponent of a constructionist learning theory (i.e. Making Is Thinking), John has recently completed a new thesis on the relationship in organisations between People and Space, which has spawned a lot of tools, instruments and methods on how you can make the things you want to happen, happen (someone observed one of them “looks a bit… Gallifreyan” which is brilliant.)
Since 2011, Smithery has worked with numerous people including Konica Minolta, Penguin Random House, The Design Museum, Experian, Oxfam, Google, Carlsberg, Adaptive Lab, Gravity Road, Saïd Business School at The University of Oxford, London College of Communications, The Huffington Post, Royal Mail, Samsung, Google, Channel 4 and Skype.
John also created Artefact Cards, a way to help people and teams play with ideas, making up card games to find better ideas whilst having more fun. There are now over a million Artefact Cards are now out there in the world, helping people work in new ways, and they’ve been covered by everyone from the Financial Times and Maria Popova’s Brainpickings.
Prior to founding Smithery, John spent seven years at PHD Media in London, becoming Head of Innovation in 2007 when that wasn’t a thing.
Designers of the future! Set aside your sonic screwdrivers, put down those jetpacks, and step away from the holodeck. Our sci-fi visions of the future often run to the cold and technical, describing a life swallowed by screens, machines, and robot companions. We can do better; the best UX bends technology to the way we live our lives, not the reverse. We can find more humane inspiration in a different kind of fantasy—in the familiar, age-old tales of magic and myth.
“What if this thing was magic?” should be the opening question for designing any connected device. The internet of things is fundamentally about creating physical interfaces for digital systems, about blessing everyday objects, places, and people with extraordinary abilities. Sharing a rich trove of examples, designer Josh Clark explores the new interactive experiences that are possible when anything can be an interface and magic is your inspiration. Sling content between devices, bring objects to life from a distance, weave “spells” by combining speech and gesture. For designers of the future, it turns out Harry Potter is a better role model than Captain Kirk. Our challenge is not one of technology but of imagination.
Josh Clark is the founder of Big Medium, a design agency specializing in connected devices, mobile experiences, and responsive web design. His clients include Samsung, Alibaba, eBay, AOL, Entertainment Weekly, Time Inc, JCrew, O’Reilly Media, and many others. Josh wrote “Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps” (O'Reilly, 2010) and the forthcoming “Designing for Touch” (A Book Apart, 2015). He speaks around the world about what’s next for digital interfaces.
Before the internet swallowed him up, Josh was a producer of national PBS programs at Boston’s WGBH. He shared his three words of Russian with Mikhail Gorbachev, strolled the ranch with Nancy Reagan, hobnobbed with Rockefellers, and wrote trivia questions for a primetime game show. In 1996, he created the uberpopular “Couch-to-5K” (C25K) running program, which has helped millions of skeptical would-be exercisers take up jogging. (His motto is the same for fitness as it is for software user experience: no pain, no pain.)
Through the book Make it So (Rosenfeld Media, 2012) and scifiinterfaces.com, Chris has spent years meticulously tracing the lines of influence between designs in sci-fi and the real world. And yes, there are clearly influences. But that does not mean that design in the real world should take its marching orders from sci-fi. Sure, a lot of it is jaw-droppingly beautiful. But some of those same, lovely designs—if implemented—would quickly result in the “usability problems” of severed limbs, munitions craters, mangled bodies, and even the plain old end of the world. Join Chris as he deconstructs enough examples to make us deeply, deeply wary of fetishizing them, and approach sci-fi interfaces with a critical (and still intact) eye.
In his day job at Cooper, Christopher designs products and services for a variety of domains, including health, financial, and consumer; as well as teaching, speaking, and evangelising design internationally. Prior experience includes developing kiosks for museums, helping to visualise the future of counter-terrorism, building prototypes of coming technologies for Microsoft, and designing telehealth.
His spidey-sense goes off semi-randomly, leading him to speak about a range of things including interactive narrative, ethnographic user research, interaction design, sex-related technologies, free-range learning, generative randomness, and designing for the future.
He is co-author of Make It So: Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction (Rosenfeld Media 2012), and the force behind the blog scifiinterfaces.com.
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