Tag Archives: talks

A decade on since Human Genome mapped

“Ten years since scientists first mapped the human genome, the man who runs the Wellcome Trust Sir Mark Walport – which spends hundreds of million of pounds each year on medical research – thinks it is time to start thinking about how we use genetic information.”

Tomorrow, Eureka – Times Online’s Science column – will be taking an in-depth look at some of the businesses that have been launched on the back of the genetic advances of the past decade. In particular the resulting sustainability if the personal genome businesses that have made bucks form selling predictive risk analysis. The author of the piece states that it will “chart the very different ways in which the rival companies eg. 23andMe and the defunct Decode Me are trying to turn a profit, their different attitudes to data-sharing, privacy and medical supervision, and the implications their models will have for the future of personal genetics.”

An event to watch out for that is running in conjunction with the Wellcome Trust’s ‘identity‘ exhibition:

The National DNA Database on Trial
04 February 2010, 19.00 – 20.30

Design Provocations: new perspectives on design

On Tuesday night I was kindly invited to an event organized by Ludic Group as part of their Creative Capital series of events hosted by the Hospital Club.

Entitled “DESIGN PROVOCATIONS: DEBATING DESIGN & DESIGN FOR DEBATE” the evening was a great opportunity to bring together those who design alternative futures to discuss the implications of emerging technologies in our lives. Obviously this is a topic close to my heart being as I am a graduate of the Design Interactions course at the RCA. I will always be someone who is investigating the bigger picture and the wider impact of this approach; applying the skills of the designer with art, science and technology as a way to discuss the continuation of now, the preferable, the probable, the potential.
The one thing I have felt since graduating is that there is no opportunity to actually discuss and debate what it is that we are doing, there is no obvious path for this way of working yet there has always been a way for people to express their ideas of speculative futures by telling stories.
Not that I feel that there is only one way to be a designer, but there could be a 3rd way, a pluralistic approach that applies design as a tool to highlight the importance of the complexity of humanity and the normative social and political systems we live in that we fit into or try to mashup or destroy.

Speakers included James King, Anab Jain, James Auger, Jack Mama, Dr.Marcos Cruz, and each were depicting their own way whether using objects, film, animation, architecture photography or ethnofictions to deal with the possibilities the impact of new and emerging technologies will and do have on our everyday lives and enforce us to reinterpret our social and political structures.

As quoted by Paola Antonelli design is evolving in response to the hugely complex changes in the world ..“Is the recent dialogue between designers and other disciplines mutating design and therefore mutating our world?”…and in doing so the audience and the facilitators to this approach in design is also changing.

Is this kind of design and futures thinking futile? Who should it be addressing, where can this way of working be most affective? Is it design to facilitate? How will it change public engagement and our individual understanding of how our futures could go? Does anyone care about the future or should we stick to designing new FMCG and ways to solve current misunderstandings of our world from a ‘social’ design perspective and deal with the now?

Anyway, just some thoughts…

‘Parallel Worlds’: Design Interactions and ADSO4 at RCA

Went to a great alumni event on Thursday night hosted by Design Interactions and Architecture departments at the RCA about speculative storytelling called ‘Parallel Worlds’. An opportunity to see projects that hint at alternative sets of underlying values and alternative political/economic/social situations.

It was a real opportunity to see some graduates and current students work in a 7 minute pecha kucha style presentation format. It had the essence of being in a crit but with beer and without the criticism!
For me it was the first time I had seen architecture student’s work from the platform run by Gerard and previously Fiona. As it was a night of storytelling about possible, preferable, plausible, potential futures each presenter had a particular concern relating to social and cultural implications of technologies/scientific developments ranging from the post-antibiotic era and atavism, nuclear waste and the cyborg self to energy pasts, biometrics and gait analysis at the airport. Each was expressed with an opening question and then a description of a scenario/ investigation using film, montage, design prototypes etc.

The real interesting thing for me that came out of that evening was the chance to see the similarities and differences in how the two courses speculate, communicate and develop projects.  There are obviously different guidance curriculums for DI and for ADS4. DI deals in broad scope and in depth but with no direct methodologies or ways of exploring something and not always a defined end point i.e. services, products, films or installation or interventions.  I realised the ADS4 have obviously very different end goals to any project explorations, they will inevitably design a building.

Presenters and their project summaries:

DRIVING WITH THE JONES_NICOLA KOLLER (ADS04 2003) Driving with the Jones explores a world in which the English countryside might finally succumb to tragi-pathogens, falling EEC subsides and ever decreasing profits.
THE RACE_ MICHAEL BURTON (DI 2007) www.michael-burton.co.uk Can human metagenomics give us new ideals of health, enhancement and success as a “super-organism”?
THE GREAT INDOORS _ TOMAS KLASSNIK (ADS04 [2006]) _  [www.klassnik.com] Do we still want to participate directly in society? or would we prefer to interact solely through the comforting distance of the internet?
ORGANIC HYBRIDS AND THE POSTBIOLOGICAL WORLD _ REVITAL COHEN (DI 2008) revitalcohen.com Could cross-breeding of the natural kingdoms give birth to new sorts of cyborgs?
Can embracing the health benefits of toxicity persuade society to trust nuclear power?
THE GOLDEN INSTITUTE _ SASCHA POHFLEPP (DI 2009) What would have become of the future of energy if Ronald Reagan had never happened?
ETERNALLY YOURS : HUMAN(ITY) SHIELD _ CLAIRE JAMIESON (ADS04 2009) Can the disposal of nuclear waste be ensured for 10,000 years by the creation of a synthetic mythology?
SELF DEFENSE : BERNHARD HOPFENGAERTNER (DI 2009) How will the disclosure of our private emotions alter the way we see ourselves?
Can a new school typology remove societies fear of children?
THE PHYSICS OF THE IMPOSSIBLE- NELLY BEN HAYOUN (DI 2009) “How can I make a galaxy in my kitchen sink, professor?”

Brain scanners, Ian Jindal and predicting how we will consume!

hitachi's brain scanner

hitachi's brain scanner from Tech-On

Heard an amazing talk at Sense Towers the other week where Ian Jindal came to speak to us about e-commerce and the future of how we will consume! A brilliant and very frank presentation that he has given to a variety if audiences around the country but this time it was to us Sensers. Check out his presentation.

He spoke of issues that are changing thw way we shop online. Data has been mashed up in such ways that now real magic can be performed as more intelligent methods of using data are being applied to predict or maybe even affect our shopping habits. Using APML: attention profiling markup language , hypodata and epiphonomenology (esp), “digital businesses can now make use of behavioural data and interaction to propose a model to consider, anticipate and exploit the phenomena that arise from new uses of data,  the ‘attention economy’ as it has now been coined.”

He also pointed out an amazing article that was discussed in Nature Neuroscience  about brain scanenrs being able to see your decisions before you act on them, suggesting free will does not exist and how we unconsciously make decisions before our bodies realise and react: AMAZING!!!!   NS link or WIRED link

By scanning the brains of test subjects as they pressed one button or another – though not a computer mouse – researchers pinpointed a signal that divulged the decision about seven seconds before people ever realised their choice. The discovery has implications for mind-reading, and the nature of free will. “Our decisions are predetermined unconsciously a long time before our consciousness kicks in,” says John-Dylan Haynes, a neuroscientist at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin, who led the study. It definitely throws our concept of free will into doubt, he adds.

This schematic shows the brain regions (green) from which the outcome of a participant's decision can be predicted before it is made. Courtesy John-Dylan Haynes.

This schematic shows the brain regions (green) from which the outcome of a participant's decision can be predicted before it is made. Courtesy John-Dylan Haynes and Wired.

Malcolm Gladwell talk


“So what is the Gladwell formula? All he does is pull together diverse bits of research, say the critics, and package them up in ways that do make you think, but mostly think things you sort of thought already. But isn’t that the art of journalism?” …The Daily Telegraph

Went to see Malcolm Gladwell last night to discuss his new book Outliers: The Story of Success at the Lyceum and thought umm, this guys know how to PR. The place was packed and it was in the most amazing theatre setting. Unfortuntaly the lecture was ok but not brilliant. Starting off with some good banter about the best way to name a lecture (by putting three famous names together and relying on the audience to think that the speaker has found an amazing link between them eg. Julius Caesear, Martin Chuzzlewitt and Helmut Lang!) He then continued to discuss that the cultural heritage of an individual affects how they act in certain situations, for example the Appalachia area is known to be a violent area of the States and one theory is that the original settlers came form the Border areas of northern england, known for its violent outbreaks between various clans under the pressure of keeping territory in small land mass. It soon got less interesting as Gladwell continued way too long to discuss how certain countries’ heritage and social interaction and mitigation causes plane crashes! But he did turn hardcore Dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede idea of the Power Distance Index into something really interesting. Hofstede tabulated a list of countries, creating the Power Distance Index and looks at how much a culture does or does not value hierarchical relationships and respect for authority. The index attempts to quantify how deferential subordinates are to their superiors in distinct cultures. Columbianss, Gladwell explains have an especially high power distance index which leads subordinates to speak in a way that seems delicate and circumlocutious to a country with a low power distance index, such as the United States.

Now on an EPIC journey

I’m at this moment attending and exhibiting at the EPIC conference in Copenhagen. It’s set in amazing surroundings at the Uni of Copenhagen and im surrounded by ethnographers, social anthropologists, designers of all strands. The conference theme is (in)visibility. I’m showing The Delphi Party service of the fictitious FATE institute in context of unveiling possible futures of a loved one within a facilitated workshop of friends and family.

Lectures at the James Martin 21st Century School

Check out these video lectures online with the various directors of the schools of thought at the James Martin C21st School:

Director Interview: Science and Civilization
Professor Steve Rayner

Director Interview: Environmental Change
Professor Diana Liverman

Director Interview: Migration
Professor Stephen Castles

Director Interview: Future of the Mind
Professor Baroness Susan Greenfield

Director Interview: Emergent Infections
Professor Angela McLean

Director Interview: e-Horizons
Professor William Dutton

Interviews with inspiring people on Radio4

Just stumbled upon the RADIO4 website that contains an archive of interviews with a huge range of fascinating people. Ranging from Margaret Atwood discussing her novel The Handmaid’s Tale not being science-fiction but based on real political, historical and contemporary events to Arthur C. Clarke writing about the future, James Watson and Francis Crick discuss how they discovered DNA, Gandhi giving a spiritual message to the world, Vladimir Nabokov and his view of other writers and the difference between genius and talent and lastly my hero Roald Dahl discussing childrens’ love of laughter and attraction to rudeness.

Radio 4 Correspondents Look Ahead

man listens to the future ahead

Stephen Sackur leads a discussion with a range of BBC correspondents to identify the issues likely to dominate the headlines in 2008. The BBC correspondents are Justin Webb, Lyse Doucet, James Robbins and Evan Davis. Check the BBC radio show here> (thank you BBC!)

Hear previous look ahead radio programmes for 2007 from this blog called The Wardman Wire

Designing Safe Living

gas mask

I am currently the rapporteur and blog administrator for a research programme called “New Sciences of Protection:Designing Safe Living” at Lancaster University. It involves many experts discussing various subjects under the umbrella heading of safe living with various themed workshops spread out over the next year.Topics disscused already include foot and mouth disease, women hacker communities, detention centres, plagiarism, telecare for the aged, chiold protection etc