You can imagine that asking a room full of 10 year old children what 2097 has in store would throw up some interesting responses.
Among the flying cars and hover boards, a surprising number held fairly bleak visions of the future; of being dominated by machines or – one of the three favourite ideas chosen by the group – the city returning to the wild and inhabited by animals with human beings relegated to cages.
The remaining two ideas chosen as the group’s favorites were an app that lets you transform yourself into any animal. While the third idea, came from this drawing of a device conceived by three pupils from Dorchester Primary School and Christopher Pickering Primary School…
“It’s like mind swap…one person goes into another person’s life for a moment.”
Demi from Christopher Pickering describes how it functions: ““an old person and a young person and their brains connect together to make the young person go back into the old person’s time”
The group’s reflections on ageing, living with older family members and themselves getting older became a key inspiration for the stories of 2097 and the app. If you’ve not tried the app then download it now to play.
Aarhus and Hull are both home to some of the largest machines you might get to see.
Across the water from the city centre in each you’ll find the cranes and lifters of their respective ports – moving containers cars and bulk material by the tonne. While the new Siemens factory in Hull has begun fabricating 75m log turbine blades – the world’s largest handmade fiber glass components cast as a single element.
Beyond the Siemens factory, in the town of Hedon we visited the house of Paul Benson – a designer and maker of robot miniatures and owner of the Droid Foundry. Paul kindly offered his vision of the machines of the future…
“Technology has the habit of progressing in leaps and bounds and I think there is little doubt robots will be noticeable by their presence in 2097. They will come in all manner of shapes and sizes, but there will be those that are basically human shaped in terms of having a clearly defined head, torso, arm and leg parts. It would make sense so that could operate equipment and machines designed for human use. I very much doubt whether we will see robots that will actually look like real humans and function like us by 2097.
Basic work robots will be quite utilitarian and designed for many different roles in all weather conditions and environments. With highly efficient and powerful hydraulic systems or rotary motors, robot body forms will be quite simple and straight forward.
Robots may well very expensive to buy and replace so it will be essential for any working part to be replaced quickly and efficiently in any environment and conditions. So for example, should an upper arm unit fail it could be very easily replaced in situ and the robot put back to work as quickly as possible.
Some robots might be seen doing mundane jobs like collecting litter, sweeping roads, unloading cargos etc. whilst others will more dangerous tasks in environments hazardous to humans like working in mines, nuclear power stations, quarries etc. Robots will be capable of working continuously 24/7 until competition of a task, only requiring breaks to reprogramme, recharge their power source or servicing requirements.
In appearance those seen on city streets would be well maintained, possibly brightly coloured and marked with company logos, their designated role and even advertising. Those working in factories or out in the fields will probably look pretty worn with lots of paint chips, dirt and grime. Robots that are metal fabricated might well be quite rusty. Replacement parts will stand out as being clean and possibly in different colours.
Setting tasks will be completed via their Artificial intelligence (AI) units which will be some form of flash drive that can be slotted into their head units. The device will allow the robot to be programmed for a particular task which will allow them to perceive their environment and take actions that maximize their chance of successfully completing a task, simple learning in other words. Some robots may have language units that allow them to respond to the spoken word and therefore can be briefed or set new tasks by their human supervisers. Modifications to basic programming might allow interactions with other robots so that they can work together.”
Margaret tells me that she will be away this summer – making her annual trip to a remote Pacific island – out of touch from phones and email.
Now over 80 years old and a Research Professor of Cognitive Science at the Department of Informatics at The University of Sussex, Margaret Boden isn’t how you’d picture an expert on artificial intelligence. The walls of her living room are covered in collections of computer generated art from the 1960s, alongside Balinese puppets and a collection of glass from early history.
Studying medical sciences and later philosophy and psychology, she worked to develop the world’s first academic programme in cognitive science in the 1960s. Though she talks lucidly about technology, her interest and authority on AI comes from understanding the impact and relationship of AI to people.
In science fiction, robots reflect our deepest desires, needs and fears – they are our slaves, entertainment and our personal assistants – caring for the elderly, serving as companions for the lonely but at the same time threatening to outsmart, outperform and overthrow us.
According to Margaret, far away from the realms of science-fiction, AI is already transforming what it means to be human. Behind every internet search, bank transaction or online movie recommendation, AI is influencing the very fabric of the societies we live in.
Acknowledging AI’s conflicting and complex influence on people, she sees major developments on the horizon: from disrupting work and the jobs we do, to tackling currently incurable diseases and enabling “the generation of previously impossible ideas.”
Watch Margaret’s interview to hear her hopes for the future.
Take a look at some of the images scriptwriter Matt has been drawing inspiration from to create the world of the five sci-fi films. Can you imagine these buildings, objects and people being part of your city in 80 years time?
Thinking about what ceremonial objects may look like 80 years from now, we came across these beautiful 3D printed death masks by Neri Oxmanon Dezeen. The bruise-colours and the crystalline quality of the material have a sci-fi edge, almost like the object is alive, “I love the idea that in the future 3D printers will create objects of high cultural value”.
And speaking of 3D printers…
In January Matt, Ju and Nick were in South Korea and drove past these on the way to Incheon. Machines will undoubtedly change in the next 80 years but cranes from 1937 wouldn’t look that far out of place today.
Matt’s been looking at a lot of brutalist architecture from the 50s and 60s because “brutalism was perhaps the last architectural movement that set out to transform everything. It was so radical. You had buildings with almost no windows, entire districts moved onto a different level. And the thing about brutalism is that the designs immediately raise questions as to the building’s purpose. I’m not even sure if the central bank in Baghdad strictly qualifies as brutalism but this photo is shocking. Not just for the US troops guarding it and the damage visible on the bank itself (it was looted by Saddam Hussein’s sons) but for the sense of power emanating from the building.”
This photo of the recently opened Qatar Foundation in Doha, designed by OMA is striking in a different way. From the inside it has this fantastic panoramic view of the city framed between the concrete. It seems remote from the ground below.
Umbrellas, skirts, cardigans and patterns. Artist Nick has been looking to the past for inspiration on future clothes. After all things often come back into fashion.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting more snippets of inspiration that have influenced the film scripts form Aarhus, Hull and beyond.
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We’re sitting around the table and someone asks: ‘Do Facebook friends really count as friends?’
For everyone at the table – a group of over 60’s from around Hull – the consensus is that communities depend on something inherent in meeting people in person: on finding ways for people to participate, to contribute and to trust one another. Technology seems fraught with problems when it comes to building trust. While our increasing dependence on the internet raises concerns about privacy and disrupts traditional forms of work.
I’m introduced to Dave Shepherdson by chance one rainy Friday afternoon in a busy cafe on Newland Avenue in Hull. Dave is one of the masterminds behind a new digital currency based on this technology called HullCoin. For a good five minutes, he enthuses about how HullCoin will transform our relationships with each other: encouraging participation and giving value to the social contributions we make to communities.
To find out what he had to say, watch his interview here.
Our taxi-driver, Mr Chang, pointed out the car window: “That city will be finished in about five years time”
Amid vast stretches of reclaimed land rows of cranes punctuate a sea of giant new apartment buildings. This is Songdo – a new ‘smart’ city being built from the ground up in South Korea. Now that more than half the world’s population now live in urban areas, our cities are responsible for generating 80% of CO2 emissions worldwide.
When we met Dr. Mirko Presser at the Alexandra Institute in Aarhus – an expert on the internet of things – he coyly flashed his smart watch and explained that he ‘liked’ technology but didn’t love it. For Mirko, learning to harness data is a key to living sustainably in cities in the coming century. In the complex web of infrastucture that supports our daily lives in modern day cities, the promise of smart systems which gather real world data, and that connect users and services in new ways is to allow us to use limited resources more efficiently.
But, what are the challenges that await if we ‘turn the world into data’?
Mirko is one of the authors of one of the most widely read publications on smart cities and the internet of things – a comic. Mirko’s eyes twinkled when he talked about his dreams as a child of travelling to other planets, however, he remained cautious about the promise of smart technologies.
Whereas the the architects behind Songdo are working from a blank slate, smart systems in most cities will need to work with the idiosyncrasies of existing cites and their communities. Uber is just one example among many of how connected services are disrupting existing economies, raising questions of who actually benefits from smart cities, while the system outage at Amazon’s datacenter last week – which caused users with smart home lighting systems to be left in the dark – flags some of the potential risks for our growing dependency on smart systems.