I’ve said it in other blog posts I’ve written, and in conversation too since I’m a geek and all. But, as a young science fiction fan, I had great expectations of the Twenty-First century. I wanted the Jetsons and Star Trek. I wanted jet packs, instant food via computers, and (perhaps most importantly) a robot housekeeper.
Of course, the twentieth century passed into the twenty-first without any of those things becoming a widespread reality. But, this is the nature of technology, developing according to the issues and needs of the day. In this new century, robots and flying cars aren’t quite as dire a need as clean air and the rapidly depleting resources that we rely on for heat, light, and other basic requirements. This is not the future first envisioned during the post-war economy years. This is the age of stewardship, and of changing values.
Here’s an article from the Wall Street Journal, who asked four architects to envision the home of the future. Notably absent are the traditional trademarks of science fiction I mentioned. Instead, the imagination involved in conceiving the home of the future was not inspired by high technology, so much as a technology modeled by the natural world. Further, it started with a fundamental values shift from a future that is a wonderland of consumerism, to one of a more integrated vision of how we might more efficiently and respectfully inhabit our environment. From the article:
The idea was not to dream up anything impossible or unlikely — in other words, no antigravity living rooms. Instead, we asked the architects to think of what technology might make possible in the next few decades. They in turn asked us to rethink the way we live.
This is the key point for me. Technology here is not the point; it’s a means to an end. This exercise was about the re-examination of what ‘home’ means, and started with an analysis of cultural values. I think that’s a fascinating approach, and perhaps a necessary one too.