Tag Archives: design

An Exercise in Trend Recognition

For this edition of Future Imperfect, Sven Johnson has been grasping towards something which may or may not be there to grasp.

Future Imperfect - Sven Johnson

If you spend any amount of time straining through global news and pop culture, you’ll probably have had a similar sense of unseen patterns waiting to be discovered. But, Sven asks, what exactly occurs the moment before trend recognition? Continue reading An Exercise in Trend Recognition

Toys of the Trade

Sven Johnson returns to Futurismic for another instalment of Future Imperfect.

Future Imperfect - Sven Johnson

Cyberpunk literature mirrored its era by speaking of the the fetishism of hardware; Sven takes a look at the state of play today, where what were once tools are now toys, and where complex design modeling software is available at the click of a mouse to anyone who wants it … as part of a video game. Continue reading Toys of the Trade

Designing for the Apocalypse

OK ladies and gents, please give a warm welcome to our second new non-fiction columnist here at FuturismicSven Johnson.

Future Imperfect - Sven Johnson

Sven is what I might call a philosopher of design (although I image he’ll hate me having done so in public). In his inaugural column he gets all eschatological on our asses and asks whether, as a species, we collectively design our own doom. Continue reading Designing for the Apocalypse

Asimov’s Three Laws of Weigh-Ins

Alice Wang's half-truth scale Isaac Asimov‘s robot stories were based around his famous Three Laws of Robotics, the first of which states that a robot may not injure a human being.

Asimov got lots of stories out of the many unanticipated behaviours his three laws might provoke in robots under various scenarios. His robots, though, were high-tech sentient creatures with “positronic brains.” I don’t think he ever contemplated applying his laws to everyday household products.

Designer Alice Wang has, though, and regarding Asimov’s First Law, wonders, “Are there existing domestic objects that already break this law?”, and comes up with a surprising answer–bathroom scales:

Scales, although don’t perform physical harm, have been subtly damaging us psychologically. Should objects like these exist in a complex society like ours where people are more emotionally fragile?

She has therefore designed three scales that might reduce the emotional harm caused by the mean old scale. The first, called white lies, allows the person being weighed to lie to him or herself: the further back you stand on it, the lighter you become. “The user can gradually move closer and closer to reality,” she notes. (Via Gizmodo.)

The second, called half-truth, can only be read by a person who is not on the scale: its readout is at the front edge, perpendicular to the floor. “Suitable for cohabiting partners,” notes Wang.

Finally, there’s open secrets, which doesn’t show you your weight at all: it sends a text message to a specified mobile phone, instead. The recipient of the message can then decide whether to share your weight with you immediately, the next time you meet–or not at all. “Suitable for pre-cohabiting couples,” says Wang.

Up next: the Heinleinian Starship Troopers scale, which will only consent to weigh you if you first serve two years in the military.

(Photo: Alice Wang.)


Infrastructure for the twenty first century

San Francisco in 100 years time looks a little different…
The ever compelling Alex Steffen over at WorldChanging is talking about Infrastructure a lot lately. A lot of the US and much of the world is built on an infrastructure of highways, electric grids and waterways, which are struggling to keep up with population growth and increased costs, especially of fuels. Whilst new technologies like superfast trains and solar panels are good, they need investment in the infrastructure for it to work – as seen by Britain having to spend millions to replace track for the Eurostar because Margaret Thatcher chose the cheaper infrastructure in the eigthies, whilst the rest of Europe put in place track suitable for what became the TGV.

There’s a lot of interesting ideas out there, from Alexander Trevi’s use of carbon-harvesting nanocrystals and radiation reprocessing to produce a green ‘New Chernobyl’, to architects IwamotoScott‘s ‘Network Hydrology’ reimagining of a water and hydrogen-producing algae based 2100 San Francisco. There’s plans to artificially create a new river delta to protect the Louisiana coastline and Amsterdam might drain its canals to create a new underground subcity. Or what about BLDGBLOG’s idea to create housing projects in the same way people make zoos? By combining good design in new infrastructure with the inventions already out there we can start looking at a future way of living rather than just trying to extend the one we have beyond its lifetime. And is it coincidence that most of best ideas also look ridiculously cool?

[picture by IwamotoScott]