Monday, November 1, 2010

Brain Bender

How large a role has design played in the evolution of humans and the formation of society? A tremendously large part; so large that humans could not have accomplished what we have without design principles from the very beginning of our evolution. We looked at raw goods, and somehow on an instinctual level, saw that those goods could be more useful if we refined them. At the beginning, all design was utilitarian in nature, but anything that was consciously manipulated by people has been designed; without imagination and design we never would have refined tools, or manipulated flora and fauna into clothing, shoes, and shelter.

primitive stone tools

As we progressed as a species and our more basic needs were met, we became more able to indulge the imaginative process which gave rise to the first designs of tools, cave paintings, language. We imagined, then created cities, infrastructure, industry; all of it originally a concept designed by somebody before it existed. Today’s world is reliant upon study and speculation in the past. Will the same hold true for the future?

Do the fanciful, impossible, imaginings of today literally design the future for us? Authors such as Bradbury and Asimov, through their flights of fancy, are responsible for designing the concepts for countless staples of modern culture. Through their ingenuity we now have a full spectrum of goods, from the useful (fiber optic cameras on long cables used for surgery, etc.) to the useless (wall-sized TVs), all of which owe their concept design to speculation in a time long before such things were possible.

In nearly all science fiction depictions, if one looks far enough into the future, society has evolved into a dys/utopia where nearly every inhabitant wears the same thing, and objects and buildings are angular, streamlined, and muted. Is this the future for society merely because we predict it to be? Is speculating ahead in time a self-fulfilling prophesy?

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