Visiting this groundbreaking exhibition will be a truly multi-faceted experience, if you could be there in person, sometimes between tomorrow, May 12, and November 4 2018.
Between the hundred plus exhibits there will be something for everyone and a lot to process if you have only a short visit in mind. Planning few days in London could work better if you’d like to visit each exhibit in some depth.
Design as Vision
The first impression of the exhibition is of a glorified and over-sized children playground, with a giant pink plastic house as a backdrop, and multi-sensory interactive installations and digital screen all over the place. The look is the work of trending Madrid based architects working for the Spanish Office of Political Innovation. Like children in a playground we are tempted to explore and try all the toys available. While we play we are encouraged to think and learn too.
This is not in fat just a fun-filled tecno-fair but also a place to inspire some serious soul searching on the type of future we envision for ourselves and the world too.
Not merely a technology exhibition this is a brave attempt at looking at the future, not just from the point of view of technological development, but the development of ideas and philosophies of life, of way to govern ourselves, from the grassroots to the top of government institutions, of lifestyle, Art and ecological survival.
It is a ‘Future Exhibition’ as the organizers Rory Hyde, and Mariana Pestana, London based Portuguese architect, are telling interviewers. The ideas expands from the area of design to that of health, family, home, country, politics, space narratives, because everything can be ‘designed’ or ‘re-designed’ in an advanced era of technology.
Not only Design Studios but also Research Laboratories, Aviation Centres and many other organizations focused on development are participating.
Regarding the inexorably advancing technology the curators want the public to become aware of both its positively thrilling potential and of its dangerous pitfalls. The dark underbelly of the wide net of things has come in full light after the many recent cyber scandals. Those are the growing threats to our privacy and psychological/intellectual independence from lobby groups and various power mongers. The freedom of being a fully ‘connected’ world is now entwined with the risk of being swamped by unknown forces out to get us, for whatever material or intellectual profit they can get.
The playground look of the exhibition continues to the last stage, also pink, where visitors are encouraged to help completing the sentence ‘The Future is…’ with their own words spelled in giant plastic letters on sticks.
We will be left with amazing visions in our retinas, possibilities in our head and feelings in our hearts.
There is a random quality to this complex exhibition that could prove bewildering if you try to absorb too much at once. From Artificial Intelligence to Augmented Reality this exhibition should be a showcase from what we can already envision about a possible future in our private and public life. The technology is now so rapidly advancing an exhibition like this could help us summarize the major developments, keeping in mind that things change and improvements are made on an everyday basis when it comes to anything virtual, from satellites in space to medical treatments, to ever more sophisticated smart appliances. Many of these groundbreaking designs will indeed shape our future in a big way and define the way we live, starting now.
We don’t seem to have a choice but to embrace them now without running the risk of be left behind.
This exhibition offers a tantalizing glimpse on where this new generation of smart technology is taking us, hopefully making us more aware of some of the dangers of our ever more connected and digitized world, the obvious risks, for instance, of breeding a host of domestic snooping devices, in increasing number.
Seeing is believing: here is my take on some of the major entries of ‘The Future starts here’ exhibition.
Opening on Saturday, May 12 until November 4 2018
THE BODY, DEAD or ALIVE
NANO MAGIC TRIPS
Using VR headset visitors will be able to navigate inside a human or vegetable cell, even a strand of hair, with the help of the amazing 3D Microscope virtual imagery from Nanotronics Imaging (‘to build the future you have to see it’).
This technical marvel can look at any material at the nanoscopic level and make those images navigable by our virtual selves! A magically exciting New Frontier for everyone to explore.
DNA PORTRAIT ANYONE
With these true to life Masks/Portraits we enter the field of Forensic DNA technology, now capable of re-creating a realist portrait out of DNA samples taken from a deceased person and/or a crime scene.
On display will be a digital Portrait/Mask of famous whistleblower Chelsea Manning. The Mask reminds me of the dead masks of executed criminals preserved in Victorian museums in early days.
It was digitally created by artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg, using samples of Manning’s hair and saliva.
THE SOLAR SHIRT
This is the latest SOLAR UNISEX WEARABLE SHIRT designed by Pauline van Dongen with the Hoist Centre. It is capable of generating up to 1.5 watts of electricity in max sunlight. This can be used while charging or stored in a battery pack or smart phone, thus keeping your indispensible gadgets powered on. The USB output can be conveniently found in the shirt’s pocket.
PARO, THE FURRY SEAL SOOTHING DEMENTIA PATIENTS
This therapeutic Robot named PARO has been proven to help comfort people who suffer the uncertainty, memory loss and confusion caused by Dementia and other conditions. I feel it is a modern techo substitute for the pets of old and ailing people, who have been always renown for their beneficial effects on the well being of their owners.
ETERNAL CRYONIC LIFE
In this installation, created by the Cryonics Institute of Michigan, visitors can sign up to join enthusiasts, like the science’s pioneer Robert Ettinger, who introduced the idea in 1962 and founded the Institute in 1976; as well as the Oxford academic Anders Sandberg, to purchase their very own ‘chyronic bracelet’. Sandeberg’s own bracelet will be part of the display.
This App will immediately alert the Institute clinic in case of death, natural or accidental, to avoid an autopsy and speed up the process of freezing in liquid nitrogen. Note that the death has be legal or the practice will be against the law.
The hopeful idea is for the body to be resuscitated, sometimes in the future (an undisclosed number of years), when medicine may be able to treat presently untreatable conditions or stave off death all together. The Institute also offer the lesser choice of preserving the head and brain only. SF stuff!
On exhibition will be a simple, low tech kit that family of the recently deceased will need in order to put the process in motion.
The cost, you may ask. The Michigan Institute offers the best option of this growing niche market: $28.000.00 US for the whole body compared with other companies whose deals range from $80.000.00 for crynogenically preserving the brain to $200,000.00 for the entire body. The top alternative providers of this service are the Methuselah Foundation of Virginia, founded in 2003, and the Foresight Institute of Palo Alto California, founded in 1986. All three institutes mentioned are not-for profit research organizations.
BLACK MIRROR ETERNI.ME: DEARLY DEPARTED AVATARS
Here is a different take on death, having more to do with the afterlife than the preservation of life itself, as the Cryonic option.
The ETERNI.ME App is more like a virtual psychic who claims to be able to communicate with the dead. The aptly named Black Mirror technology could well put traditional psychic mediums out of business!
Like the father of Superman the dead can now be virtually resurrected to have a conversation with us and even give advice on everyday matters. The AVATAR of our dear ones will be created by feeding the App with the person’s profile, gathering massive amount of data, in as many details as possible, while the person is still alive, in order to re-create his/her personality when we may want to contact them after death.
The example provided in the installation is of a woman making virtual contact by texting her deceased father, to discuss with him about what to pick for mother’s birthday gift. This seems to suggest that the idea is, for now, more playful than serious. Could the complexity of a personality be squashed into a digital profile no matter how detailed and well informed? Some may think it possible, I have my doubts.
THE TECHNO-ECO HOME
ROBOTS DOING THE CHORES
The dream is coming true, soon we’ll be able to rely on friendly Robots to run the household. As we enter the Sainsbury Gallery we are greeted by Californian BRETT (the Berkley Robot for the Elimination of Tedious Tasks), washing and folding clothes, a bit awkwardly at present. This generation of useful Robots are programmed to learn by trial and error, so there is hope…
With Voice controlled Digital Assistants all the roar already (see Alexa – Echo) the many possible uses of HOME ROBOTS have only began to be imagined.
The imaginary ‘Mirror Mirror on the wall’ has entered our everyday reality as more and more AR/SMART/MAGIC MIRRORS are mushrooming all over the place; making one yourself easy enough task for anyone interested.
This quasi-magical piece of technology was first presented at the ’InnovFest Unbound’, a 2016 digital technology conference in Singapore, and is now a Superflex exhibit at ‘The Future Starts Here’.
The SMART aspect of the MIRROR is to be another of the many gadgets we are already using to connect to the web of things. Apart from reflecting as any ordinary mirror this one can tell you the time, the coordinates of any locations, the weather conditions and road directions anywhere on the planet, etc.
The MAGIC aspect of the MIRROR is its purposed gift of reading your facial expressions and recognizing your ever changing moods there. It is said to pick up eight different emotions. Once your Selfie has been matched with your profile it can begin working for you.
There are naturally serious privacy concerns with these products, as multinational corporations, interested in gathering massive data about potential buyers, can use these Mirrors to spy on consumers, gauging their reactions to specific products, via advertising and promotions. In many cyber stores VIRTUAL MIRRORS can already help you match clothes and accessories to your photo profile in their virtual fitting rooms. The implications are scary at many levels; what other uses these Mirrors could be put to?
A JAPANESE MODEL HOUSE
This original project is the Bioscleave House by Japanese architect Shusaku Arakawa and American writer Madeline Gins, based on physically challenging, life-extending, death defying technologies. The floor is sloping and covered in bumps that have to be negotiated with some effort. There are poles that invite swinging, while to move around the house one needs to climb through some of the circular doors.
These innovative, quirky technologies are based on immune system research that has confirmed that an active body can live a longer and healthier life than a sedentary couch potato.
More in my next post on ‘The Future starts here’ exhibition where I look at installations such as the Big Glass Microphone, the Facebook’s Aquila drone and more.
London, Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell rd, South Kensington