From future(s) of work, to AI-led organisations and post-truth politics, here’s a glimpse of our projects and activities from this year.
In 2018, across so many sectors and industries, the lack of foresight came home to roost. Obstinance and populism reigned in global politics. Scandals shook the tech behemoths, and the IPCC report confirmed what leading climate scientists had been trying to tell everyone for years.
Throughout the year, the need for effective foresight that addresses the spectres of short-termism, risk aversion and institutional conformity became increasingly evident. At Superflux, we worked with organisations across sectors to do just this: actively prototyping multiple possible future worlds that give people the tools to tackle these complex, systemic interdependencies, and build actionable and sustainable future strategies.
Stark Choices: Immersing Decision-makers in the Future of Work, Labour & Automation
At the beginning of the year, education charity, the Varkey Foundation, asked us to foreground the connections between education and work. Through our project Stark Choices we took a group of educators, students and decision makers (including former UK Chancellor George Osbourne) through two immersive simulations – one hopeful, one dystopic – exploring the Future of Work and automation.
Mantis Systems: AI in International Development
In February, we worked with the United Nations Development Program (@undp), Nesta (@nesta_uk) and Bond to explore the question ‘What does the development organisation of the future look like?’
Mantis Systems was part strategy, part design and live performance: a speculative international development start-up that harnessed the power of AI to preemptively stop global risk. The provocation stimulated reflection about how organisations are structured, funded, function, and the role of emerging technologies in international development.
The Future Starts Here: 7 Interactive Works and Films for the V&A
The films and interactive works we produced were major features in the V&A’s landmark exhibition. Our works were collectively designed to shape the visitor experience throughout the exhibition, to elicit deeper environmental, sociopolitical and cultural contexts and implications of emerging technologies for the objects on display. The ‘Everything Connects to Everything’ film was screened on a 9 metre wide display in the centre of the gallery and probed the complex ecologies and workings of the global technological and infrastructural networks that we have become so ensnared within.
Mitigation of Shock: Living with Climate Change
In May, we moved house, dismantling the Mitigation of Shock apartment from the CCCB in Barcelona. This apartment – from London around 30 years from now – has been transformed with DIY adaptations for living with the consequences of climate catastrophe. The domestic space is alive with multi-species inhabitants, surviving and thriving together in an indoor microcosm powered by functioning food computers systems made from salvaged materials. Thousands of people walked around the apartment, and experientially immersed themselves in the lived consequences of climate change. Watch this space for where it will pop up next.
Future(s) of Power: Exploring Algorithmic Power & Piloting Citizens’ Assembly
We kicked off the summer with an event for Somerset House, piloting the citizens’ assembly model to explore the issue of Algorithmic Power. Guests Indra Adnan, Stephanie Mathieson and Professor Jun Wang gave quick fire talks and worked with selected citizens to collectively imagine the future consequences of algorithms in governance.
Anab also guest edited Azeem Azhar’s Exponential View building on the theme of alternative democracies, which you can read here.
Still reeling from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, we spent much of June and July trawling through 4chan researching misinformation, the future of identity, and culture wars. During the last days of summer, the team could be found masquerading beneath mounds of future artefacts and filming across London as the repercussions of Brexit broke to the surface across the city. The speculative film and props from the production are now showing at the Museum of Discovery, Adelaide. Huge thanks to Nabihah Iqbal for the soundtrack and voiceover. We’ll keep you updated about where to see the film in 2019.
Instant Archetypes: A New Tarot for the New Normal
In November, we launched a Kickstarter for Instant Archetypes our reimagining of the Major Arcana for the 21st century. We were totally blown away by the response. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to everyone who supported us. We quadrupled our target and all packs are making their way to the owners. If you’re quick, you can grab a copy from the Somerset House shop. Available soon from other outlets, too.
Talks and Things
We’ve been out and about speaking a fair bit this year, and met some wonderful folk along the way. Matt talked about Trust and Invisible Agents at Future Everything in Manchester. Danielle opened the Social Innovation Exchange’s Beyond Imagination conference in Seville. Anab keynoted the annual IXDA conference with a talk on More-than-Human Centred Design, which she then wrote about for Mozilla. At Design Museum invitation, Anab spoke in UK parliament about Design in Britain alongside Lord Mandelson and Sir Paul Smith.
Catch you all on the flip side.