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Retro: The Future Starts Now
Alex Steffen, 23 Aug 05

Some people think technology will solve all our problems, that simply by pushing the technological envelope, we'll end up with a better future. We think differently. We tend to believe that the challenges we pose to ourselves as we create new technologies more or less determine the kinds of technologies we end up with. Dale Carrico's guest essay, The Future Starts Now is one of the best articulations we're published of this argument, and of the need for a technological frontier that takes hacking poverty, disease and injustice as part of its design brief.

If tools exist to imperfectly redress hideous global poverty and treatable illnesses here and now (and they do), then it is precisely our effort to redress these injustices with these tools we have on hand that best ensures that the future tools available to future people (and we may very well be those people ourselves, after all) will be used to do the same when finally they arrive on the scene. Counterintuitive though it may seem, cheap insecticide treated mosquito nets have everything to do with advanced nanotechnology -- to the extent that what we hope for from such emerging superlative technological developments is the redress of injustice, poverty, and human suffering.
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Yes, which means that the next big thing is HUMAN-CENTERED DESIGN, taking into account human activity and needs, environmental issues, as well as positive/negative externalities of both production and products/services' use. Negative externalities like pollution or bad work environments should tend towards zero, with the help of appropriate specialists and renewed design methodologies that would include cognitive and social sciences into engineering. Ergonomics and human factors are all about human/user-centered design. We've already got everything in our hands, let's now work it out...

Posted by: Yves Grassioulet on 25 Aug 05



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