11 April 2010

Your life in 2020

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Forbes Magazine, in collaboration with Frog Design, has been looking at what the future in 2020 might look like in a range of areas: computer, choice, classroom, commute, home, job, diet, health and reputation.

Some articles are clearly more inspired (and less technology and US-centered) than others. Many scenarios are far too optimistic, and I miss some broader socio-economic and environmental analysis. What could be the real consequences of privacy concerns, crime, cultural differences, war, climate change, overpopulation or poverty in all this?

Here is for instance a quote from one of the scenarios (about social networking in 2020) that, when thinking about it, would open up a huge range of privacy and security problems, none of which are acknowledged or addressed:

“The virtual display could be used to illustrate relationships between a group of people. A husband and wife might be linked by a thin glowing tether. Flowchart arrows could indicate if one person is another’s boss. Even former friends–people who were once connected but severed ties–could be identified with broken chains or angry lightning bolts.”

This lack of broader contextualisation makes the whole exercise somewhat naive and superficial. That said, here are my preferred pieces (with Steve McCallion’s one – addressing some of the issues mentioned above – my personal number one):

Your life in 2020
by John Maeda, president of RISD
In 2020 we might just regain some of the humanity that was lost in 2010.

“So, what will take technology’s place? It begins with art, design and you: Products and culture that are made by many individuals, made by hand, made well, made by people we trust, and made to capture some of the nuances and imperfections that we treasure in the physical world. It may just feel like we’ve regained some of what we’ve lost in 2010.”

Your computer in 2020
by Mark Rolston, chief creative officer at Frog Design
Traditional computers are disappearing; human beings themselves are becoming information augmented

“When computing becomes deeply integrated into our knowing, our thinking, our decision processes, our bodies and even our consciousness, we are forever changed. We are becoming augmented. Our first and second lives will be forever entwined.”

Transportation in 2020
by Steve McCallion, executive creative director at Ziba Design
In 10 years, your commute will be short, cheap and, dare we say, fun.

“In 2020 a new generation will emerge from a period of frugality into one of resourcefulness and resilience. Americans will start searching for transportation solutions that are smarter, healthier, slower and more social.”

The classroom in 2020
by George Kembel, cofounder and executive director of Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design
The next decade will bring an end to school as we know it.

“In 2020 we will see an end to the classroom as we know it. The lone professor will be replaced by a team of coaches from vastly different fields. Tidy lectures will be supplanted by messy real-world challenges. Instead of parking themselves in a lecture hall for hours, students will work in collaborative spaces, where future doctors, lawyers, business leaders, engineers, journalists and artists learn to integrate their different approaches to problem solving and innovate together.”

Reputation in 2020
by David Ewait, Fortune Magazine
Social networks change the way we look at the world and introduce new economic incentives.

“Web-based social networks are cutting-edge technology in 2010. By the year 2020 they’ll be so commonplace–and so deeply embedded in our lives–that we’ll navigate them in the real world, in real time, using displays that splash details over our own field of vision. We’ll even use the social capital that results from these networks as a form of currency.”

But if you understand French, it is useful to compare these insights with the five videos broadcast on the France 5 channel: vivre en 2040.

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