The Fourth Industrial Revolution is already here. Technologies formerly found only in the realm of science fiction are now part of our daily lives or wait just over the horizon. Each of these technologies has the potential for great good or unintended negative consequences.
How Bright is Our Future? was a feature installation at the 2018 Toronto Interior Design Show that engaged the public by asking how they feel about these emerging technologies and in so doing, created a snapshot of how we individually and collectively shape our future.
Visitors entered a dark space and encountered five tall, blade-shaped structures. Printed on each of these “blades” are ten statements, each from a category of technology that will be critical in the future of our society. The statements are different on each blade, but the categories are the same: Nanotechnology, Genetic Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Connectivity, Drones, Automation, Mass Customization etc. Visitors were invited to react to each statement with a touch to the triangular buttons: Does the statement inspire fear or does it inspire hope?
A large screen behind the blades reacted to each choice; a response of fear projected a potentially negative outcome of the statement; a response of hope projected a potentially positive outcome of the statement.
The projected response existed for only a fraction of a second – as soon as someone else made a choice – but the light level of the blade brightened or dimmed depending on the individual contributor. In addition, the collective mood of participants was measured throughout the four-day installation on a spectrum of hope to fear – how bright is our future, or how bright do we think it is?
The design of the space was deliberately otherworldly yet familiar; it is a hybrid of the past, present, and future. Made from fundamental materials: wood, cloth, rope, steel, and paper; it is natural and technological, static but connected.
The goal of the exhibit was to remind people that technology is as good or bad as we decide or allow it to be and that the real tools for change are the questions that we ask ourselves.