Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Can the Future be Designed?

If a tree fell in the forest and nobody heard it... did it happen? put it in another way: if a man spoke his mind in a forest, and no woman heard him, is he still wrong?

I'd love to take credit for those words, but it would be a lie. Sir Ken Robinson uttered those words in his TEDTalk, where he made a very moving and superiorly creative case on the need to reform the way we think about education and intelligence and how it affects us.

There are two other things that struck me the last few hours or so, which i think is related to education and intelligence. The second was sassy lawyer's "is the world moving too fast for comfort?" and finally, William McDonough's presentation on the wisdom of designing Cradle-to-Cradle.

This Age we've found ourselves into is spawned by the amazing technological marvels of our time. We can establish, road maps of where technology will be in 18 to 24 months time, where markets will go and what technology will we let go. Our technology has made possible the preservation of food, of better quality of medicine, of better quality living and rising human longevity. Though these gifts may not be universal, it remains such an amazing time.

In spite of all this ability, there is much we don't know. For instance: we don't know what the next big thing will be. We also don't know how the world will look like in five years.

don't believe me? In 1999, would you have ever imagined living in such a wonderfully connected world or in spite of such technological marvels, how the world is so dark all of a sudden?

When one looked at how the world is, we never really expected the world to change because of 9/11. The culture of fear and mistrust is palpable in just every facet of society and a group of people living amongst us is utterly convinced our differences are more important to them than our diversity and a deep gushing wound is so profound that the human spirit throbs with pain.

Just take a long hard look at this image from James Nachtwey's TEDTalk presentation:

This man's will to live shames many of us.

In spite of all this, is the world moving too fast for comfort because at the same time: more people will be educated in University. That means, more people with degrees. Being educated means more economic opportunities. Looking at China, having the most number of people in the world, with improved economic conditions, more and more people will become richer. It should be a marvelous time. This also means competition increases: the balance of power changing and people will be left out in the cold. It also doesn't mean the quality of human intelligence increases.

Literacy is such an important facet of education. Being able to read, to write, to communicate and to articulate what you've got on your mind. Being able to understand and execute instructions and to give them properly is likewise important.

In this Age where the Everyman has such amazing power, creativity--- what Sir Robinson described as: "the process of having original ideas that have value more often than not comes with the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things" is even more important and must form a complimentary balance with literacy.

Sir Ken Robinson's TEDTalk

Across various industries, throughout the strata of human interaction, we are seeing more and more of this mash-up of creative spirit and the interaction of myriad disciplines. The presentations i've seen on TED is what Ken Robinson perfectly described as "a celebration of human imagination". He said we must rethink the way we educate the next generation because the old ways just don't cut it. It is the only way, he said we can avert the problems facing our future.

William McDonough talked about Cradle-to-Cradle. His methodology is environmentally intelligent design. Mr. McDonough emphasized this: "Design is a signal of intention". I guess it would be better for you see "Design is a Signal Intention" animation from multimedia Artist Sharif Ezzat for Nuggets of Wisdom, click this short animation:

(image is linked to an animation by Multimedia Artist, Sharif Ezzat )
"design is a signal of intention, but it also has to occur within a world, and we have to understand that world in order to imbue our designs with inherent intelligence. So as we look back at the basic state of affairs in which we design, we in a way need to go to the primordial condition to understand the operating system, and the frame conditions of a planet. I think the exciting part of that is the good news that’s there, because the news is the news of abundance and not the news of limits. And I think as our culture tortures itself now with tyrannies and concerns over limits, and fear, we can add this other dimension of abundance that is coherent, driven by the sun, and start to imagine what that would be like to share"
Design as a signal of intention is a holistic approach to building things, particularly in architecture. We can learn something from it to leverage the future.

The future is unwritten. Perhaps that is why we are so fascinated by it. Perhaps that is why we fear it. We can not hold the tide of time. We can not control the future, much less know it.

What has architecture, education, intelligence, our problems for today and the future have to do with one another? How are these inter-related? There is something we can do: we can face the future better prepared, as best we can.

Ken Robinson said it best: Intelligence is diverse, wonderfully interactive and distinct. Our intelligence is measured by the combination of various disciplines and the innovation of our creative spirit. For good or ill, our intelligence makes the future unpredictable: for instance, what will we think of next? At the same time, innovative ideas, creative thought can be used to leverage the future.

Therefore it is highly important that humans everywhere, rethink our preconceived notions on education and intelligence and how we prepare a whole generation for tomorrow.

Our world is a beautiful place and there is a wider universe out there, waiting to be discovered. If no one could appreciate the boundless beauty of our world and beyond it, if it would thrive and no one to appreciate it, wouldn't it be such a shame? if a tree fell and no one noticed, wouldn't that be a shame? Put it this way: if a tree fell, and the one who saw it couldn't appreciate it, wouldn't it be a shame?

This is my point: i believe the future is something we can design, rather than merely throwing chess pieces at the board. We then need not fear the future, to be too fast for us to comprehend or wait for that moment when we can be comfortable with it. We can create and design a tomorrow filled with hope, with innovation and with promise or any which way we so choose. Therefore, the future is something we can envision, can strive for, and though, as with all plans, it may or may not be down to the last precise dot, but it certainly be something we can give it a go and make possible. If design is a signal of intention, and our intention for our future is for a holistic approach that mashes up the disciplines and the creative spirit to form intelligence, therefore, couldn't a designed future then be leveraged to fight incapacity?


francis79 said...

Nice one dude,
1 hour after my birthday has passed, i can't sleep, i check my e-mail, and here i see your blogpost -"Can the future be designed?"
It somehow got my attention to read it through(sometimes i just look at bits and pieces of your blog bro, haha, always interesting, but it's just me)

Very nice read for my birthday.
Life has been harder exponentialy through the years. And thinking what my tomorrow would be is getting complicated. I think we need that wider universe now. Wider in the sense that instead of making things complicated, things should now evolve into something new. You quoted that "Our intelligence is measured by the combination of various disciplines and the innovation of our creative spirit." But innovation of what? Something that is already useful? Which in turn only makes it more complicated. I believe that the roadmap to our concept of "Technology, Intelligence, and Innovations" are reaching its maximum capacity.

So i think that the "design" that we need for the future is something else...
I don't know if E.T. has to throw blueprints of new concepts for us, or Mr Terminator having to go back from the future and leave his severed bionic arm for us to study, or Michael Jackson finally confessing that he is an alien and share the technology of his people.

A new Grand Design is needed.
Blah blah...
I'm dreaming na yata.

Cocoy said...


i know what you mean: life seems to get harder the older we get. i can laugh now about it. it seems to be one huge roller coaster ride, with many ups and downs, and more to follow going forward, i think.

anyway, i joined quite recently. it has been, exciting and inspiring.

i mean... take William McDonough. he designed/is building a city... without destroying the ecology. they actually are putting the grass on top of the buildings, ensuring that at least at one time in the day, all the structures will have sunlight. hehehe.

that's just one example.

you should also see the multi-touch thing. i want to see the instructions on how to build that thing.

i've also been listening to Guy Kawasaki. he has a very nice presentation called "the art of the start" i have it embedded , click on that link. the video is downloadable from google video.
he said as a venture capitalist, he isn't looking for the company who says they'll make money. in fact, the successful companies he said are those who are "out to change the world". it's a pretty good presentation and i hope you get to see it.

Guy's presentation, and the ones i've been watching/listening that came from TED, has made me pause and rethink a lot of the basic assumptions for "what i want to do next" myself.

oh, happy birthday again, hope you enjoy your vacation and let me know more about how vista is for you.