A gentle journey to the heart of the London Design Museum
Technology is everywhere. From when we wake up in the morning to the last thing at night. It’s becoming more and more intertwined with the way we live our lives; from the ubiquity of smart phones to the development of the Internet of Things, allowing us to control our household appliances remotely. However as technology rapidly advances so does a feeling of anxiety towards this evolution; devices keep us connected but distant, the line between man and machine is blurring and “robots are stealing our jobs”. While this is not a new sensation, it does feel a more likely scenario the further we move towards Industry 4.0 the basic principle of which relies on robots and AI. But, as a species we’ve always found a way to adapt and integrate these developments to our benefit – so why not now?
It is human nature to innovate and progress, and as our lifestyles change and develop, so too must technology, and then we change again as a result of our adoption of this technology – it’s a cycle. There is no doubt, technological evolution has accelerated vastly since the industrial revolution. On the creation of the first mass produced automobile the Model T, Henry Ford is famously quoted as saying “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” We often don’t ask for the ‘next big thing’ but when it comes along we are faced with the decision to oppose or embrace it.
With this in mind, I paid a visit to the shiny new Design Museum in Kensington High Street last week. It’s inaugural exhibition Fear and Love, Reactions to a Complex World explores the idea that design is as much a way of understanding the world as it is changing it. One of the themes explored in the exhibit is the growing tension between humans and technology as a result of the development of AI.
However, rather than opposing or fearing this technological evolution, could we not embrace it to become its agents of change? We’ve already evolved advanced tech to the point where it is wearable; with the Apple Watch that is essentially an iPhone on your wrist, or Spectacles from Snap, inc. (formerly SnapChat) which aim to take our social media contributions to the next level. In contrast, for Fear and Love Hussein Chalayan has created “Room Tone”, a fusion of fashion and tech utilising Intel technology, where smart accessories detect and project the body’s emotions. Through this union, the idea of wearable tech becomes something more than gratuitous – it becomes a new way of expression through fashion. So perhaps we’re reaching a point where we should embrace this symbiotic relationship?
Another installation that stood out to me, and when you go you’ll see why, was Madeline Gannon’s Mimus. Whirring a ruckus behind the silvery curtain as you enter, Mimus - a re-programmed robotic arm from a factory assembly line - impatiently waits. In an effort to diffuse the tensions between man and machine, Gannon prefers to see robots as a companion species, so rather than performing repetitive tasks, Mimus – named for its ability to mimic – emulates a curious sentience as it mimics whoever comes close to its perspex enclosure.
Our encounter stirred several contrasting emotions in me; in equal measure, both awesome and intimidating. It reels you in with its mimicry, disarming in a way, then the moment is shattered as it seems to lose interest and jerks over to another observer.
AI is still very much in development but companionship is a much more compelling concept to explore, as opposed to fearing the robotic ‘other.’
In my opinion; both as a Creative Designer and a real-life human person, I feel that technical progression is not only inevitable, it is essential. Younger generations have access to newer tech at an earlier age and thus we are living in a world that belongs to the tech-savvy. The rate of change is daunting at times; it is hard to keep up with the latest gadget, gizmo or technological trend, it’s my job to provide solutions to the myriad problems that may arise along with these fantastic new ideas. That’s where the humanity lies, there is always something new to learn.
Don’t panic, take a deep breath and try to enjoy the ride.