A recent editorial in Business Week argued "When people talked about innovation in the '90s, they really meant technology. When people talk about innovation in this decade, they really mean design." It's fascinating to watch the ways in which design concepts and philosophies are beginning to take root outside fields traditionally thought of as "design." Similarly, it's wonderful to see designers begin to embrace more fully the broader social, technological and environmental context in which they work. WorldChanging ally IDFuel is an excellent example of this broader-context approach, as is IDFuel editor Dominic Muren's article from last week on hydrogen.
The article is a summary of recent findings in the world of biohydrogen -- the use of naturally occurring microbes to generate hydrogen from raw foodstuffs. It's a good summary, filled with interesting links and useful tidbits of info. I encourage you to go read for these alone. But it was the concluding paragraph that caught my eye.
These systems are still in their infancy, but this is the perfect time for designers and architects to begin thinking about how their introduction might alter the social and urban landscape. First of all, now that the fuel for cars no longer needs to be refined meticulously, or at least it's refinement will not require huge, ugly plants, what opportunities for integration into a city are there. [...] The possibilities are intriguing, as always. It's certainly a cool time to be designing.
Exactly. Exactly. Climate change, smart mobs, the emergence of advanced bio and nanotechnologies, the evolution of energy, transportation and urban systems... these forces intersect and recombine, co-evolve and co-inspire, and will provide a wondrous and productive canvas for forward-thinking designers. This is why WorldChanging, in the end, has a clear-eyed optimism about the future. The tools for transforming the world are already here -- and, just as important, so are the desire and the talent.