Addressing the “Big Questions” – An Interview

Staying up at night can induce all kinds of philosophical thoughts into our brains and we all tend to have existential crises by the time we’re halfway into our teens. The “big questions” that transcend rational thought and sanity pop up constantly, eking our metaphysical anxieties, and ultimately shape the way we envisage our future. I caught up with a friend of the past several years, Awantika, to ask about her take on what the future holds for many of the questions we ask ourselves during the early hours of the morning.

I started off the interview with a seemingly simple question of whether Awantika had a more utopian or dystopian view of the future. She opened up on a strong philosophical note of how she believes, “With the progression of science and technology we’re going to find other avenues through that to have a better world in terms of health and discovering how we function (2016, pers. comm., 6 October),” as opposed to blindly following ancient religions and teachings. Her belief is that, “The more we get to know how things are working inside ourselves, it’ll be easier to make decisions… that are ethical and also… positive for ourselves (2016, pers. comm., 6 October).”

When asked about what scares her most about the future, she immediately voiced her concerns about the environment. She feels that a lot of things are going to become more artificial, and deems, “there’s already… a lack of investment in agriculture. There’s not much of value given in that… natural life (2016, pers. comm., 6 October),” and about how people seem to be migrating to more urban settings.

We continued over to the topic of technology and how it would exist in our future since a majority of futuristic scenarios involve the rapid evolution and expansion of technology in most areas of life. Awantika believes, “it would be a significant aspect of our lives… People who work a lot need more machines to… do things for them that they wouldn’t want to do… From folding the clothes, to washing the dishes (2016, pers. comm., 6 October).”

Further, I asked her to hypothesise one main technological change or invention that could occur in the future. She contemplated on the multitude of possible theories she had, eventually replying, “It would probably be a housemaid (2016, pers. comm., 6 October).” Slavery and servanthood are two issues she believes should be abolished. “Humans shouldn’t have to [do chores] for other humans… It’s just unfair (2016, pers. comm., 6 October),” she continued. Robots and artificial intelligence used to create housemaids as a replacement for slavery is what she envisages as a possible proposal for our future.

Finally, I wanted to hear her view on the struggles of moving forward as a collective world, so I referred her to performance artist Tehching Hsieh’s ‘Time Clock Piece.’ This work, “recalls the labours of Sisyphus, who, in Greek mythology, was forced to roll a rock repeatedly up a mountain, only to watch it fall down again (Marks 2014),” and works as a metaphor for the concern that every step forward in our society seems to come at a cost of taking a step back somewhere else. She opened up her view, explaining, “Humankind can’t expect to have the answer for everything… Does humankind really know what progress is? What is the right direction?” As a continuation of this, she mentioned that progress can be made, “at the right time in the right circumstance,” and that, “What is in our control is recognising opportunities, and those circumstances where your labour is going to be wasted (2016, pers. comm., 6 October).”

We therefore ended the interview with a very realist yet utopian view of how the future would operate and realised that, sometimes, addressing these “big questions” we formulate late in the night can help us figure out what it is we can start doing to initiate change and progress in society.

 

 

References:

Marks, K. 2014, ‘Tehching Hsieh: the man who didn’t go to bed for a year’, Australia culture blog, weblog, The Guardian, Sydney, viewed 5 October 2016, <https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/australia-culture-blog/2014/apr/30/tehching-hsieh-the-man-who-didnt-go-to-bed-for-a-year>.

A Review of the Post-Apocalyptic World in The 100

(TVShow Time n.d.)

How would the world exist if we were to experience something as magnificently devastating as a Nuclear Apocalypse?

Within the world of the post-apocalyptic, science-fiction television program, ‘The 100’, humans have now been living in a united space station known as the Ark after escaping the Nuclear Apocalypse. In this world, there exists a virtual reality called the City of Light. This digital entity was created by an artificial intelligence known as A.L.I.E., who, in turn, was created by the neuroscientist, Becca when she lived on the space station called Polaris which refused to join the Ark.

(The 100 Wikia 2016)

The City of Light allows for anyone who enters it, to virtually become immortalised. Their conscious is ‘uploaded’ to the virtual reality, so they live on even after they have died. Within this entity, there is no death and no mental or physical pain. Ethically, the City of Light is highly problematic because it essentially recreates the human mind, erasing all negativity and anything linked to that pain. One can enter the City of Light through meditation or through A.L.I.E. after ingesting a ‘chip’ called the Key to the City of Light which is a silicon-based device that causes, “the filaments [in the device to] reconstitute in the brain stem [interrupting] pain receptors [and] inhibiting certain neural pathways from firing (The 100 Wikia 2016, para. 9).”

(The 100 Wikia 2016)

STEEP Analysis of the “current” world – Earth, 2149/2150 CE

bleh

This scenario of having artificial intelligence in control of an unethical virtual reality that can lure people into its wiles might be probable in the distant future if we succumb to the unrestricted power of sentient technology. As for the way the world exists in ≃2150 CE, as shown in the above STEEP analysis, if a Nuclear Apocalypse occurs, we might be forced to ‘downgrade’ to a lifestyle such as the one the Grounders lead. Whether we would be able to create technology such as A.L.I.E. 2.0 and have genetically modified people such as Nightbloods though, is debatable, and only time will tell if we do happen to scientifically advance that far.

 

 

References:

Peterson, D.J. 2014, ‘I’m confused about the Grounder language…’, Tumblr post, 2 December, viewed 30 September 2016, <http://dedalvs.tumblr.com/post/104195916604/im-confused-about-the-grounder-language-in-the>.

The 100 2014–present, television program, The CW, California, 19 March–present.

The 100 Wikia 2016, A.L.I.E. 2.0, viewed 30 September 2016, <http://the100.wikia.com/wiki/A.L.I.E._2.0>.

The 100 Wikia 2016, City of Light, viewed 30 September 2016, <http://the100.wikia.com/wiki/City_of_Light#References>.

The 100 Wikia 2016, Col16, viewed 30 September 2016, <http://the100.wikia.com/wiki/File:Col16.png>.

The 100 Wikia 2016, Hakeldama 110, viewed 30 September 2016, <http://the100.wikia.com/wiki/File:Hakeldama_110.png>.

The 100 Wikia 2016, Thirteen 007, viewed 30 September 2016, <http://the100.wikia.com/wiki/File:Thirteen_007.png>.

TVShow Time n.d., The 100, viewed 30 September 2016, <http://www.tvshowtime.com/en/show/268592 >.

 

 

The Importance of Fiction in our Relationships with Technology

When we think of technology and the many scenarios it can present, we often think outside the box, and create stories in our heads. There are an infinite number of possibilities when it comes to what technology we can create, and, debatably more importantly, how we interact with its design.

Retrofuturism (specifically Cyberpunk) is an example of a genre that humans have shaped their ideas of their relationships with technology around. We create narratives and reveries in order to deal with and absorb the overwhelming magnitude of technology and all its possibilities.

Retrofuturism, a style in the creative arts and media from the second half of the 20th century, can be defined as, “an ambivalent fascination for a future that never came to pass (Guffey & Lemay 2014),” combining retro styles with futuristic technology. An example of retrofuturism used in design is the “Visions of the Future” poster series about NASA’s study of exoplanets. This series, created by The Studio, a team of creative visual strategists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, consists of fourteen posters that the team of artists, designers and illustrators created in order to, “share a sense of things on the edge of possibility that are closely tied to the work [the people at NASA] are doing today (Jet Propulsion Laboratory n.d., para. 2),” as creative strategist David Delgado mentioned. The creative team brought an element of comfort and old-world charm to something incredibly unknown that alienates and alarms people often. Typographer Lois Kim mentioned, “We wanted to create a retro-future feel… (Jet Propulsion Laboratory n.d., para. 7).”

(Jet Propulsion Laboratory n.d.)

This poster series has been a huge inspiration to many artists and designers and also heightened the public’s interest in space technology and the work NASA is doing for the future of space travel and study. Making the prospect of space exploration and study aesthetically appealing and comforting through their retrofuturistic design approach is therefore helping further advancements in space technology since people are not as overwhelmed by how incongruous it sounds.

Cyberpunk, a subgenre of retrofuturism, exists within dystopian settings and revolves around a, “high tech low life (Ketterer 1992),” society, containing poor social conditions with highly advanced technology. The 1982, science fiction thriller ‘Blade Runner’, directed by Ridley Scott, is set within the cyberpunk genre and explores, “a vision of humanity dehumanized by technology (Shmoop n.d.).” The people within the Blade Runner world are completely dependent on technology and this ultimately becomes their downfall. Humans have a, “non-neutral, transformative power… enhanced by technologies,” and, “the amplifying/magnifying power of technologies, in the late twentieth century, has brought to the fore the human-technological power of a geological force (Ihde 1993).” If we lead ourselves on a technology-dependent path to the future, we will become our own downfalls, much like in ‘Blade Runner’. Films like these cause us to rethink in which directions we want to take our technological advancements and offer insights into how the world could possibly become if we allow ourselves to succumb to an all-technology dependent way of life.

Hence, by mixing the ‘known’ with the ‘unknown’ in genres such as these, we create glimpses into what technology could exist in the future without entirely alienating or terrifying people. Humans tend to seek comfort wherever they can, and alienating them completely will not encourage them to pursue futuristic avenues. Having a tether to current reality, such as what people did for retrofuturism as a whole and the cyberpunk genre specifically, whilst futuring, can help manifest and ground our technological ideas. We need to be able to see both positive and negative outcomes, as well as a mixture of the two, in order to lead ourselves into a better informed, technologically developed future.

 

 

References:

Guffey, E. & Lemay, K.C. 2014, ‘Retrofuturism and Steampunk’, in Latham, R. (ed), The Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction, Oxford University Press, London, p. 434.

Ihde, D. 1993, ‘Technology’, Philosophy of Technology: An Introduction, Paragon House, New York, pp. 47-66.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory n.d., JPL Visions of the Future Posters, California, viewed 14 October 2016, <http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/visions-of-the-future/about.php>.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory n.d., PSO J318.5-22 – Where the Nightlife Never Ends!, viewed 14 October 2016, <http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/visions-of-the-future/about.php>.

Ketterer, D. 1992, Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy, Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis.

Shmoop n.d., BLADE RUNNER INTRODUCTION, viewed 14 October 2016, <http://www.shmoop.com/blade-runner/>.

Interview: A look into the future of Sleep and Design

Looking back to my first blog post I forecasted a future scenario of Sydney 2050 as an always active metropolis 24hrs a day and 7 days a week, where the idea of night and day is combined, stimulating the essence of time. As a design team, CadNapper innovated a speculative object; sleeping pods. The idea initiated to accommodate for this 24hr world and newly adapted polyphasic sleep cycles. By placing the interactive sleeping pods throughout the city, allows anyone to sleep at any time.

 

I decided to focus my interview on this topic with Kimberley, an Architect, as the participant. He has been chosen for this interview due to his extensive knowledge and understanding within the design sphere. As a whole, I wanted to get his opinion on our speculative object and find out whether he thought it would work in our imagined scenario, Sydney 2050.

 

Firstly I pitched our future scenario to Kim and he was quite taken back by the idea of a 24hr metropolis. But as I continued to explain my research undertaken in my first blog post; 24hr cities in contemporary society as well as the influence of technology, he began to see the possibilities. Whilst he agreed that people are becoming more stimulated due to technology, I introduced the idea of polyphasic sleep cycles. He found it hard to comprehend the idea of napping for 20 minutes throughout the day. “As a human, sleep is fundamental to your health and wellbeing. Sleeping as we do now (6-8hrs during the night) is the only way I see that its possible to achieve and balanced and healthy lifestyle,” he said. Kimberley indeed makes a very valid point, which allows me to anlayse the situation further. Implementing education programs and testing out this new way of life is certainly needed in the years leading up to 2050 if this scenario was ever to play out successfully. Throughout my research of polyphasic sleep cycles, I found that our ancestors adhered to biphasic sleep cycles and studies have shown that polyphasic sleep cycles are indeed more beneficial to our well-being (Practical Psychology 2016). However, there where also professors that where highly against the idea.

 

Moving on to the implementation of sleeping pods in the year 2050, I showed Kimberley pictures of our rendered CadNapper design. He thought it was well resolved and commended the interactive elements. “Technology is increasingly prevalent in today’s society and there is no doubt it will continue to expand and enhance in 2050,” he said. He also entrusted the fact that they were embedded underground due to the current exceeding population growth and lack of urban space within cities.

 

Concluding the interview, I asked what he thinks Sydney will look in the year 2050. He focused more on architectural practices and implementing eco-design, which I was highly intrigued in. His practice in sustainable design is commendable and I believe that Kimberley’s imagination of the future is rather genuine. Prominently, it seems like he has been considering the expansion conservational architectural developments. Overall, whilst his idea of the polyphasic sleep cycles where vague, his intrigue and liking to the implementation of Sleeping Pods, where abundant.

 

Reference List:

Practical Psychology 2016, Polyphasic Sleep Cycles – Uberman, Dymaxion, and Everyman Sleep Schedules, video recording, YouTube, viewed 29 August 2016, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPgUtAjfe_E>.

Primary Research

An interview was conducted with a 20 year old female called Courtney studying Communications at the University of Technology, Sydney, from which, her particular vision of the future was ascertained to be predicated on the conditions surrounding public transport, work, and family life.

She believes there will be a sleep revolution in the next twenty years and people will tend to sleep less because right now we have such a big pressure to perform and we are so busy all the time, but slowly we would tend to a polyphasic sleep since people would start taking naps and try to get a better quality of sleep which is what we came across in our future scenario.

I asked how she pictures Sydney in the future and she said “I feel like it is going to head towards New York since as we can all see it is still expanding but there is still going to be a wealth distinction between upper and lower class because of the price of housing” she hopes that the public transport will improve and maybe a subway network will be implemented, by making public transport faster and better people would be able to get to their jobs faster and we would have more time to sleep. I tried to get her to the future of sleep rather than just the future and I told her about my previous blog post of the technology improving and making planes better and more comfortable and she said hoe maybe in a future people would tend to sleep more on public transport like planes, long distance trains and buses which would make our days more efficient.

The future of sleep related to work had to do with our sleeping pods so I told her about our scenario and she thought it was a great idea to have those pods implemented. She believes that work hours will change to ten hour shifts four days a week which would make us have longer weekends, that means that we would have less time to sleep during the week but more during the weekends but also having the sleeping pods underneath the city would let us nap during the day and be more efficient.

She also mentioned how the birth rate will drop and families would tend to have just one baby which would make sleep better for the parents and the education for this child better.

I asked her if she would use a serum to put her to sleep right away or have the sleeping pods implement that serum and she said that sometime it is so hard for her to fall asleep and that is why she does not believe in twenty minute naps every four hours because she would have a hard time getting a full REM cycle so if there was a serum that made you sleep and not damage you that would be the best thing ever.

How will society interact with sleep in the future (interview)

Mar Morris, is a young Spanish architect to be. she has been selected as the subject of this interview because of her ability to cope outside her comfort zone, her understanding of designing for the future, and the fact that her background can deliver a unique view in some of the addressed topics.

After all the introductions, due diligence, and explanation of the task, Mar and I jumped right into it. Starting with some straight forward simple questions, after making her feel comfortable with speaking to me, it was time to lead into a more meaningful direction.

Just as expected Mar is a very knowledgeable person who has a fair understanding of how the body reacts to sleeping cycles. She made mention of the external factors that may alter the way we rest, sleep, and relax. “The body naturally reacts differently to the natural elements, that is why we get sleepy when it is night time and we feel full of energy in the middle of the day” she also mention how gloomy days may make us feel less active.

Later I directed the interview towards polyphasic sleep. To my surprise, she had never heard of this term but was quick to wrap her head around the idea after a brief explanation of what it is. At this point, I was eager to find out if she thinks that society will ever evolve to a polyphasic sleep cycle. Her response was clear and strong -NO- she believes that the act of sleep is too personal and the idea of sharing the sleeping space with the stranger would not be accepted. Yet she did share her idea of how would society interact with sleep in the future. Mentioning that sleeping hours will be reduced to as little as five hours per day due to the high demand of working hours, leading scientist to develop a drug that will suppress the need of more sleep. Furthermore, the introduction of sleeping pods and the alteration of the bedroom took the conversation to a wild spin where homes will no longer need a bedroom and the fact that the bed is a social item rather than a functional one. “We don’t use the bed only for sleeping, we watch TV, use the computer, have sex, etc”. In her futuristic scenarios, couples will have individual sleeping pods that would serve a single purpose and a “sex room” that may be used with a more intimate approach.

In the end I believe that Mars’ approach to the future is rather realistic in the way that it is not too far from what it is established at the present time. Importantly, it seems like she has been speculating about the future in different instances, perhaps in the development of some of her architectural projects on trying to understand how will her building fit, interact and react to the ever evolving organism we call society.

The Martian

 

themartian-673x1024(Anon, 2016)
On July 2035 the Ares launched with the planet Mars set as its final destination. Six months later the voyage commandeered by Mark Watney reaches the fourth planet in the solar system. the story line leads the audience to a number of obstacles and numerous brilliant solutions that the main character performs in order to survive stranded in the strange planet for four years. One of the most appealing aspects of this novel is not only that Watney manages to survive but that most of the survival methods applied are technically achievable, “confirmed as accurate by real astronauts” (Grossman, 2015), the brilliant scientists develops an ingenious way of growing potatoes as well as repair equipment and machinery, he is even capable of establishing communication with NASA, all of this after a catastrophic event that causes him to be stranded on the inhospitable planet.

some of the technical aspects that the author manages to communicate to the readers are how similar mars day/night cycle is where one Martian day equates to approximately 24 hours and 39 Earth minutes. Resulting in a rather familiar sleep schedule for humans. Furthermore the author Andy Weir, has explained how even though there is no way of testing how comfortable sleeping in a 0.4g environment would be like but “Most doctors think reduced gravity would make it easier to sleep overall because it reduces pressure on nerves.” (Grossman, 2015) in addition, “Sleeping in space is fantastic!” says Barry. “You just float… and it’s perfect.”(KRULWICH, 2007) all of this suggests the idea that the scenario presented is realistic to a large extent and helps convince and engage the audience.

Noise is another factor that has been addressed and even though Mars is technically a quiet planet due to the incredibly thin atmosphere and the reduced weather, the loudest noise around would be ion this case the one produced by humans, is what Weir mentions.

In the Martian the attention to detail is uncanny, yet there is little information about how Watney feels about sleeping. This allows the audience to draw their own conclusions, and this is perfectly achievable with the information given, such as. the fact that he is a seasoned astronaut trained to excel most high-stress situations. This combined with all the labour intensive days of maintaining his potatoes farms and cleaning solar cells, one can only assume that the physical fatigue and his arduous training allowed him to sleep through the nights.

STEEP
Social: The world still looks at the USA as one of the biggest players. social stigma is fairly similar to the present. One of the most revealing social aspects is when the rescue mission is declined by the government but the crew decides to risk it all for one of their own. this shows a true sense of social evolution.

technological: the technological advances shown are rather futuristic yet realistic. given most of the achievements portrayed are backed with science. furthermore, it is interesting to see how with all the technology available the main character needs to revert to the basics in order to survive.

Economical: the economic system seems to be fairly similar to the present time, except for the fact that most of the story takes place in a world where there is no purpose for an economic system.

Environmental: Planet Earth as been consumed by humans and in the hopes of finding a new planet to populate the Ares crew is sent to Mars, to determine it can is, in fact, the best alternative to the problem faced on earth.

Political: the political system on earth is assumed to be the same as the current one, especially the “American Democracy” where the desition makers sit in a room away from physical wrist while the most affected players are out in space, and their moves are dictated by emotionally physically detached politicians .
Bibliography

 

Anon, (2016). [image] Available at: https://www.nationwidemedicaldirect.com/collections/cpapmasks/resmed [Accessed 23 Oct. 2016].

Grossman, J. (2015). ‘The Martian’ Author Talks Struggles of Sleeping on Mars. [online] Van Winkle’s. Available at: http://vanwinkles.com/the-martian-author-andy-weir-talks-sleeping-on-mars-movie [Accessed 24 Oct. 2016].
KRULWICH, R. (2007). Zero Gravity Zzzs: Joys of Sleeping in Outer Space. [online] NPR.org. Available at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9007600 [Accessed 24 Oct. 2016].