Postcards from the future: Find new ways forward

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Growing up, I only ever thought about the future in terms of technological advances, science fiction, utopian and dystopian worlds. It all seemed so far away and out of my control. Today when I think about the future, my hopes and fears lie with philosophical and anthropological matters. I have accepted the fact that robots will exist. Because they already do. I have accepted that people will have bionic chips implanted in their bodies. Because they already do. What is far more curious to me now is how we as a society grow, change, evolve, or…devolve…as we move into time. As a designer, I can't help but feel a lingering sense of responsibility for what’s to come and feel compelled to envision an exciting world for people to enjoy. I have many ideas, questions, and reservations about the future but I also want to understand how my peers and colleagues are contemplating such a journey, or if they are at all. 

Luckily for me The Future event was born. 2 days. 4 stages. Designers, artists, advertisers, founders, and researchers. Talks, panel discussions, and beer chats – all anchored by the topic of ‘the future’.

Key moments
As a part-time educator, I believe we should be continuously learning, questioning, teaching, and sharing knowledge about the world around us. Since the advent of the smartphone and social media we have, unfortunately, become a very passive society. Now more than ever we need to learn how to engage critically and creatively with others. Dr. Nelly Ben Hayoun took to the stage at The Future to illustrate the importance of doing just that. In her own words, Ben Hayoun delivered a talk that was “total bombardment”. A somewhat theatrical, charismatic presentation, it was oozing with inspiration, humor, and progressive thinking. She gave a whirlwind overview of her work at The SETI Institute and how she leverages creative disciplines to make the subject matter of Space Travel more accessible to the average Joe. Eh, cool! A glimpse into the culture, programmes, and vision of The University of the Underground, where she’s turning traditional academic practice on its head for the leaders of tomorrow, was another a highlight. If you’re not familiar with her work, you should be.

A very fitting addition to the conference lineup was The Future Laboratory. Trevor Hardy, the firm’s CEO, showcased some key (and eye opening) research findings from business and technology sectors. As the demand for creative disciplines to be imbedded in these industries continues to increase, designers and makers are gaining opportunities to influence markets and consumers on a massive scale. What role will design play in the future of business? How will the consumer landscape of tomorrow effect advertising agencies? Where will technology and creativity collide to shape totally new experiences for people? These were just some of the questions swirling around in my head after Hardy’s fascinating presentation.

Wishful thinking 
The content and caliber of speakers at The Future was particularly notable. It’s also exciting to see this event take place in Dublin – a place ripe for innovation and new thinking. There were certainly some great panel discussions at The Future, but as a frequent conference goer I’m itching for increased interactivity and critical engagement at events aimed at the creative community. Platforms that promote active collaboration, open discourse, interviews, and debate, foster rich conversations and unintended outcomes that often can’t surface in a keynote environment. While the traditional ‘show and tell’ format is inspirational, informative, and valuable, I think most creatives thrive on sharing ideas and opinions at any given opportunity. A space that enables that to happen would, I imagine, only improve our collective understanding of the creative industry as a whole, our clients and customers, and where we are headed in the future.

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