. . .
Over the past twenty-five hundred years of recorded ideas only fools and Platonists ( or, worse, the species called central bankers) have believed in engineered utopias. We will see in the section on the Fourth Quadrant that the idea is not to correct mistakes and eliminate randomness from social and economic life through monetary policy, subsidies, and so on. The idea is simply to let human mistakes and miscalculations confined, and to prevent their spreading through the system, as Mother Nature does. Reducing volatility and ordinary randomness increases exposure to Black Swans—it creates an artificial quiet.
My dream is to have a true Epistemocracy—that is, a society robust to expert errors, forecasting errors, and hubris, one that can be resistant to the incompetence of politicians, regulators, economists, central bankers, bankers, policy wonks, and epidemiologists. We cannot make economists more scientific; we cannot make humans more rational (whatever that means); we cannot make fads disappear. The solution is somewhat simple, once we isolate harmful errors, as we will see with the Fourth Quadrant.
So I am currently torn between (a) my desire to spend time mulling my ideas in European cafes and in the tranquility of my study, or looking for someone who can have a conversation while walking slowly in a nice urban setting, and (b) the feeling of obligation to engage in activism to robustify society, by talking to uninteresting people and being immersed in the cacophony of the unaesthetic journalists and media world, going to Washington to watch phonies in suits walking around the streets, having to defend my ideas while making an effort to be smooth and hide my disrespect. This proved to be very disruptive to my intellectual life. But there are tricks. One useful trick, I discovered, is to avoid listening to the question of the interviewer, and answer whatever I have been thinking about recently. Remarkably, neither the interviewers nor the public notices the absence of correlation between question and answer.
I was once selected to be one of a group of a hundred who went to Washington to spend two days discussing how to solve the problems of the crisis that started in 2008/ Almost all the biggies were included. After an hour of meeting, and during a speech by the prime minister of Australia, I walked out of the room because my pain became intolerable. My back would start hurting upon looking at the faces of these people. The center of the problem is that none of them knew the center of the problem.
This makes me convinced that there is a unique solution for the world, to be designed along very simple lines of robustness to Black Swans—it will explode otherwise.
So now I am disengaged. I am back in my library. I am not even experiencing any frustration, I don’t even care about how forecasters can blow up society, and I am not even capable of being annoyed by fools of randomness (to the contrary), perhaps thanks to another discovery linked to a particular application of the study of complex systems, Extremistan, and that science of long walks.
How To Design For Future Generations: A Brief Guide To The Language of Problem-Anticipation
Words by Florent Aniorté
Inspired by Hans Ulrich Obrist’s essay; My Not-Manifesto for Art, Society, and Mondialité
“We must trust in artists to discover new ways of thinking about the present and the future” writes art curator Hans Ulrich Obrist in an effort to raise public consciousness around the future of art practices. Obrist’s essay is an attempt at proposing an ongoing conversation around the threats that weight onto society and how designers and artists hold a responsibility towards those global issues.
Bouncing off Obrist’s essay, I will attempt to put into words a brief guide on how to design and rethink the institutions we currently obey to in hopes of offering a better alternative for future generations. I believe that we can benefit from design methods to pursue this ongoing conversation and collectively revisit the ways we interact and get affected by deeply rooted institutions like art, politics, science, education, and sociology.
- Designing for Globalization
By that I mean designing against globalization. We designers need to consider the rapid growth of communicative methods in order to identify it as a threat. In an era of highly accessible information, globalization brings the homogenization of cultural diversity and the annihilation of singularity. As designers—but more simply as individuals—we ought to relocate our sense of self-determination and pride in our cultural differences. Obrist defines this call for distinctiveness as mondialité—this near-perfect balance between nationalism and anti-individualism where we prone constant exchanges between cultural groups while promoting and valuing diversity and singularity. In the realm of design and visual communication, mondialité means putting forward the things that make us different from one another, and financing projects that want to promote cultural thirst and exchange.
- Designing for Non-Elitist Spaces
As our relationship with art evolves with time and trends, designers need to rethink the ways in which individuals get in contact with works. The quickest route to making art more accessible to the public is by completely breaking the walls of institutional spaces like galleries and museums that privatize art viewing, and base their notoriety and power off the exclusivity of their works. I believe we need to remove the curative hand and give this power directly to the artists. Designers ought to rethink the ways ideas are publicized and communicated to the audience. Instead of keeping the works within the walls of private environments, we have to break out of that elitist mindset and curate spaces that will instead encourage exchange, discussion, and trigger public action.
- Designing Our Present for Their Future
In his non-manifesto, Obrist proposes the idea of “reconfiguring our present reality to make alternative futures possible.” He essentially argues that we collectively need to study and observe the current issue threatening our way of living in order to better anticipate and avoid future mistakes and major societal changes. I firmly believe that the reason why we are so late and inefficient in tackling issues like climate change, nuclear war, global pandemics, or major technological advancement is because of our perception of the future. We seem to act as if tomorrow is still an abstract idea and no matter what action we take today, we still fail to better our fate. Instead, we ought to be proactive about today’s climate and anticipate tomorrow’s problem. Designers need to be observant of current major societal changes in order to design future sets of ethics that will be central in the next shifts in our socio-political climate. One example studied by Obrist in his essay is the foreseeable integration of artificial intelligence into our community. In reaction to this technological advancement, designers need to raise questions and trigger a dialogue around concepts like “individual” and “consciousness.” Obrist himself raises questions such as “Is art changing in the age of artificial intelligence? What are the emerging relationships between machines and the human spirit? If we don’t know that consciousness is, how can we qualify “intelligence”? Are we too late to define the ethics of our machines? Does the future belong to nonhuman entities? Is the existential threat real?”
- Designing for Those Who Can’t
Artists and designer have the ability—if not the responsibility—to infiltrate institutions and major organizations, and to use their power within the decision-making discussions as a voice for those who might not have the privilege of accessing such positions. Designers that rank high in important corporations ought to avoid merging into the institution’s capitalist mindset and forgetting to take into consideration the outside world. For example, I believe that the next generation of designers to infiltrate opportunity-driven societies like Instagram ought to tackle issues such as the lack of presence of Black bodies on the app due to a faulty (or rigged) algorithm. Designing for those who can’t also means redesigning language within institutions (meaning redesigning a set of words or vocabulary that reflects our times) and rethinking methods of communication (revisiting the way social media is used and curated). That also entails distancing ourselves from the design product. To successfully design for future generations, we have to avoid projecting our own present self onto the product, and design solely for our successors.
- Designing for the Archive
Designers ought to recognize the value of archiving their work and to utilize their practice as a way to teach, warn, and alert future generations. We can use design as a beacon of hope, a proof of optimism, and symbol of resistance. “The more resistance you have, the more power” argues professor Timothy Morton when talking about the importance of play in design. Designing for the archive is thinking beyond set expectations or limitation, and considering utopia—not as a distanced and unreachable paradigm—but as a final destination and ultimate way of being, living, sharing, growing, and dreaming. Designers have to consider utopia as a concept in progress; view this state of being as an on-going conversation and betterment of society rather than as an end-point. Utopia is essentially a manifestation of perfect design, and living your desires and submerging yourself into this utopic and absolute vision of the future.
- Designing for Isolation
We need to anticipate the next pandemic and come up with a clear protocol for the next major global event. This protocol would encourage designers to rethink the way we feed, entertain, protect and provide for ourselves in times of mandatory isolation. Designing for isolation also entails designing for those who can’t—for those who working from home isn*t an alternative or privilege, and see themselves obliged to stay in the workforce. I believe we should consider moving that same workforce and relocate the marketplace (some people already bring up the idea of “e-jobs”) to be able to provide a substantial number of jobs and keep the economy running. I am not able to predict the outcome of the current situation, but I think we’ve found a great source of income, entertainment, support, and distraction within technology, and I strongly believe we need to invest in and fully take advantage of these methods of communication. Who knows—this pandemic might affect completely the way we interact and share with others, and we ought to open up a dialogue around these transitional but era-defining times.