News from the front desk 452: Tomorrowland is back. This year we’ve named our yearly signature event I, human in the climate emergency.
The title was obvious. We have fast convergence of two of the most powerful forces in our history – technology and its latest iteration artificial intelligence, and the rapidly unfolding climate emergency.
Both have the capacity to rival evolution itself and throw us violently off course.
But one holds within it the lure it might be able to deal with the second.
Maybe we can embed AI with superior evidence-based decision-making that will deal with our bad practices and won’t be swayed by self interest and stock market prices.
AI and its analytical cousins might eliminate inefficient carbon polluting transport, create more affordable homes, help fix isolated and fractured communities with well designed economic and social interventions.
Technology might help us create better buildings that are guaranteed to high standards, so people are not left homeless or in massive debt because building quality has failed them. Maybe it can make BIM (building information modelling) live up to its promise to create a perfect digital twin that works in real life with all the organic inputs of human traffic, weather and so on that will help refine its operations to within a hair’s breadth of perfection.
Maybe BIM can factor in the nature of materials, their carbon footprint, their environmental impact and ensure inputs in buildings are designed for dismantling and re-use, ridding us of waste.
Danish architect Kasper Guldager Jensen, who is the founder of GXN, the innovation arm of Danish Architects 3XN who’s lead architect Fred Holt will feature at Tomorrowland, was in Sydney this week to share exactly that story with Australia. His firm has embarked on a remarkable project at Quay Quarter for AMP Capital and on the Sydney Fish Market.
His book, Building a Circular Future, now in its third edition, looks to share collective knowledge about the value (yes, in dollar terms) of existing physical assets, so we stop throwing over the old in favour of the new (This is the theme of our special report Re-Loved buildings currently under construction).
It’s worth checking out the 3XN website to get a sense of how serious Guldager Jensen’s group is about changing the way we do things.
Technology might also find ever better ways to create renewable energy or it might find a way to extract carbon and methane from the atmosphere at a faster rate than we’re adding it.
All good things, some way off, perhaps, since we have no idea when commercial breakthroughs might match scientific breakthroughs.
The flip side is that the world is getting messier and more challenging in so many places.
A recent article in Politico magazine pointed to the possible end of democracy itself thanks to technology (social media in particular) and the rise of the new superpower of populism, and with it the potential for dictatorships that reject all form of elitism, whether based on science or other types of learned evidence or scholarship (witness the scathing pejorative attacks these days on “virtue signalling” as if to hold values of equity and fairness is by itself a sign of elitism). Better to support knee jerk reactions by our favourite populist leaders who tell us what we want to hear.
It’s a short term pacifier, like supporting coal mines. A sugar hit from the lolly shop.
In this way values are part of the wicked problem at hand. It’s not just about the weather, it’s not just about a few wealthy people pushing our pollies around to the detriment of the rest of us, it’s not just our privacy under threat from facial recognition or wellness metrics in the office so that insurance companies can “rate” us and rank us and price us with risk-free precision.
It’s not just about how money doesn’t care about the politics and is positioning to clean up on the back of the climate emergency, with vast sums about to be poured into climate resilient infrastructure, as Macquarie Group flagged on the front page of The AFR this week. It’s about all of it, altogether.
Which is where the I, human comes into it.
At our event on 31 October we want to bring together the people who are at the forefront of blending human – analogue – creativity with the brilliance of technology, keeping we humans firmly at the centre and in control.
We called our event I, human to emphasise that we need to take a personal stand about this. Like when we vote, we come up with a collective solution but we make a clear and precise decision as individuals.
That’s the key, not to hide behind the decisions the crowd takes but to stand strong and firm, each one of us, then reach out to the people, the crowds, technology and solutions that can help create the future we want.
It’s in our hands.