The near future, in the recent past

Posted: 10 November 2011 in internet, world
Tags: , , , ,

Fascinating evening last night, spent in the company of friends, and also people whose combined brain-power could probably supply small cities if they put their minds to it.

It’s Internet Week Europe this week. Did you know that? That was just one, and one of the less important at that, facts I learned last night at Tomorrow’s World, an event put on in London by BERG, a small company, again staffed by very intelligent, very nice people.

As they put it on their site,

BERG is a design consultancy, working hands-on with companies to research and develop their technologies and strategy, primarily by finding opportunities in networks and physical things.

Thing is, to sum them up like that is a bit like summing up the current financial problems in Europe as “not exactly ideal”. True as far as it goes, but there’s far, far more to it (and them) than that. Take a stroll around their website – you’ll find something to reward you.

Last night’s event was a series of ten minute talks (well, ok, they were supposed to be ten minute talks, they turned out to be more like fifteen, not a minute wasted though) on the simple – deviously simple – topic of “The near-future of…”

There was a truly fascinating talk on “The near-future of toy design” by Alice Taylor of MakieLab, a presentation on “The near future of design” by Karsten Schmidt, a mind-changing (at least for me) talk by Fiona Romero of the National Maritime Museum on “the near future of citizen science” and a brief but superb lecture (and this was the only one where I felt like a student, listening to a master of the field) on “The Near-Future New Aesthetic” by James Bridle.

And that was just the first half.

Yeah.

During the break, managed to catch up properly with some friends, and others I haven’t seen for way too long, including Laurie Penny, of whom I wrote last week.

Now, if I was a member of parliament (heaven forbid) making a speech in the House of Commons, at this point, I’d have to to declare an ‘interest’, since the first two speakers after the break are both close friends.

Warren Ellis is a man I’ve known since just before our respective children (both now sixteen) were born. If I were to sum up just what this man’s done for me in terms of advice, help, kicks-up-the-arse when required and just generally being there when needed, I’d not finish writing for some days. But funnily enough, I’d never seen him deliver a talk, so was looking forward to his talk on “The near future of pop culture” enormously. He didn’t disappoint, though I don’t know how many others in the room even came close to appreciating his comments about his daughter’s views on pop and how not only are they different to his, not only should they be different from his, but how they barely speak the same ‘language’ about it. And yeah – Phil’s views on culture are so different from my own that they might be coming from two different species, not merely two different people of some 30 years’ difference in age.

Jamais Cascio is best described as a futurist – and his book, Hacking The Earth remains the only climate change book that’s hooked me from the first page until the last. He delivered a ten minute summary of his view on why geo-engineering matters, and how, if we are the gods of our planet, we’re of the Greek gods variety, complete with all the weaknesses thereof. He ended his comments with

“We’d better sort this out in the twenty-first century… or we’ll not be around for the twenty-second.

The final speaker, Russell Davies rounded up the evening with a talk about the near future of personal/public tech (or at least how it ended up) and the tack was truly interesting.

All around, an incredibly fascinating evening that’s had me thinking all bloody day about the subjects, the implications and the potential just waiting for all us out there if only we’re prepared to look for it.

I suspect I’ll return to this again soon… sometime in, if you’ll forgive me, the near future.

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Comments
  1. Jenni says:

    Wow this sounds like such an interesting evening, I will definitely look forward to you returning to this.

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