The future will be confusing


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Talk at the Do Lectures, Spring 2012, about computing, the future and genetics.

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The future will be confusing

  1. 1. 1I walked past an art gallery in Soho a few months ago and saw this artwork by Tim Etchells. Irealised I could reply to pretty much every email I receive with just this sentence.
  2. 2. A designer who can’t draw 2Hello, I’m Chris. I’m a designer, but not a designer that can draw.
  3. 3. 3no, really
  4. 4. my medium is the present 4So what do I work in? I work in the present.
  5. 5. or, the recently possible 5the Internet, mobile phones, apps, Wi-Fi, social networks, GPS, games consoles, computervision...
  6. 6. self-ethnography 6I’m a big believer in self-ethnography. Try new technology on yourself, what does it feel liketo use new technology, and how does that alter what you design and how you design.
  7. 7. what happens when you publish your location online? 7As an example, in 2004 I hacked together a GPS, mobile phone, what would now be called anapp and a server to make a system that published my location on my website, live.
  8. 8. 8It felt different: it honestly felt like drawing a line in space.
  9. 9. 9Unfortunately I got some of the maths wrong, and a friend got a bit worried I was in themiddle of the Baltic Sea.
  10. 10. build enough to get you into trouble 10I believe in designing through making and exploring new mediums through making mistakes.
  11. 11. designers have the responsibility to live with their designs 11...and to make all the embarrassing mistakes before the public has to use it.
  12. 12. unintended consequences 12There are always unintended consequences of technology that you can’t predict.
  13. 13. (Girls Around You) 13Girls around me used Foursquare checkins and Facebook profiles to create a deeply creepyapp.
  14. 14. why will thefuture beconfusing? 14
  15. 15. technology 15The very medium I design in, the recently possible, means that the future will always beconfusing.
  16. 16. PRINTING, Power, steam, electricity, TELECOMMUNICATIONS... 16It’s nothing new for technology to change everything - it’s what it does. It causes revolutions.
  17. 17. computation 17But our revolution, out technology, the one we have to deal with now is computation.
  18. 18. Moore’s Law 18Gordon Moore made the observation in 1965 that the density of transistors on a computerchip was doubling every 24 months - or in other words, computers got twice as fast every 24months.
  19. 19. 19In fact, he was wrong, they were doubling every 18 months. And it’s never stopped.
  20. 20. Intel’s business plan 20- because it became Intel’s business plan.
  21. 21. everyone’s business plan 21And because computers define most businesses, it’s now everyone’s business plan. Fewindustries aren’t changed by this.
  22. 22. personal computation is no longer a luxury 22On the other hand, at a personal level computation is no longer a luxury.
  23. 23. (toy example) 23This toy recognises six commands by voice recognition.
  24. 24. pocket cameras can now recognise More people than a 6 month old child 24All compact cameras now recognise 10-15 faces.
  25. 25. so, now everythingis a computer 25
  26. 26. computers are better than humans 26at some things...
  27. 27. for:analytical decisions,hypersensing,repetition 27
  28. 28. but not:critical judgement,Creativity,craft 28
  29. 29. always keep in mind, humans program the computers 29I’m not talking about intelligence, artificial life or the singularity.
  30. 30. Let’s look at AN example of how ubiquitous computers change our lives 30The power of computing is already changing the way we live.
  31. 31. urban screens, algorithmic trading, Synthetic biology, data mining, 3D printing, neurogastronomy... 31I could have picked from a million examples...
  32. 32. genetics 32But I want to talk about genetics.
  33. 33. you are 3.3 billion base-pairs of DNA 33Genetics is big data, and computers are good at big data.
  34. 34. 786Mb of data 34You are about a CD’s worth of data.
  35. 35. 35Or a bookcase when printed out (this is in the Wellcome collection).
  36. 36. first sequenced in 2004 36The first complete human genome took 14 years to sequence...
  37. 37. by 2008, 5 people had had their complete genome mapped 37and only 5 complete human genomes were mapped in 4 years.
  38. 38. (cost slide) 38but the cost is nosediving - from $100 million
  39. 39. Currently costs just over $1000 39and will probably cost $100 for a complete genome in 2-3 years.
  40. 40. but 40
  41. 41. individual genomesvary by less than1% from each other 41
  42. 42. 8Mb of data 42Or a large photo, or a YouTube clip.
  43. 43. 23andme 43There’s a service called 23andme....
  44. 44. 1MB of your genome for $99 98% accuracy 44which genotypes the most important million bits of data for $99.
  45. 45. 45This is what you do...
  46. 46. 46I paid my 100 bucks a few years ago, and spat in a tube.
  47. 47. 47and potentially you can do it in your own home by the end of the year (for $1000)
  48. 48. ubiquitous geneticschanges medicine 48
  49. 49. 49So here’s what my DNA tells me. Honestly, you don’t want to be a hypochondriac if you dothis. There’s quite a frissant when you click through the final warning about what you mightfind out. I’ve hidden the juiciest information, as this is being videoed - what diseases I’mmore susceptible to...
  50. 50. Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 50because in the US, by law, currently, this data cannot be used against me...
  51. 51. no such act in the UK 51but nothing similar in the UK - there is an industry moratorium until 2017 - and who knowswhat public opinion will be by then. But I believe knowledge is power, and I’m glad I knowwhat I can try to change to overcome my genes...
  52. 52. 52On the other hand, I learnt I have a superpower - resistance to norovirus.
  53. 53. 53Now, I’m gay and a lot less likely to have a kid, but if I did, this is the information I’d want toknow - genes that could be passed on and cause a genetic disease. Which opens a huge canof ethical worms.
  54. 54. a change inmedicine fromaverages toindividuals 54
  55. 55. 55Most drugs being developed today will not work for most of the population.
  56. 56. I’m interested in more immediate, day-to-day uses 56These could be seen as more frivolous, but as we have the data and the computing power...
  57. 57. exercise 57
  58. 58. 58Now, I knew I was never going to be a sprinter... my genes conspired against me.
  59. 59. 59Then I saw a BBC programme called the Truth about Exercise, which talked about researchwhere a few genes decide whether you gain additional oxygen capacity if you do exercise.
  60. 60. 60BBC News carried an article that linked to the research paper - 20% of people show no realimprovement...
  61. 61. 61Here’s the research...
  62. 62. 62but you had to find the patent to find out which genes were being used.
  63. 63. 63Which, of course, the community at 23andme had already worked though and linked up soyou can see your results (turns out I’m never going to be much of an endurance athlete too).There is nothing that feels more like the future than watching TV, hearing about newresearch, and looking up things on your own genes.
  64. 64. taste 64Does our genetics mean that we taste things differently? Could we get to a point where we getpointed to things on a menu due to our genes?
  65. 65. sense of smell, sense of taste 65We are still learning how people experience smell and taste (often by sticking people in MRIs).
  66. 66. 66Who here can smell asparagus in their wee?
  67. 67. 1. taste nothing 2. tastes bitter 3. the bitterest thing ever 67Let’s look for another taste: bitterness. [here everyone had an envelope containing a strip ofPTC, a very bitter chemical that can be tasted depending on a particular gene]A warning: some of you really won’t enjoy this.Who was in which group?
  68. 68. 1. taste-blind 2. normal taster 3. super taster 68Those that can’t taste anything are considered taste-blind, and those that thought it was theworst thing ever are supertasters. But being super isn’t good!
  69. 69. 69This is the gene, it’s on our 7th chromosome.
  70. 70. “It is the business of the future to be dangerous; and it is among the merits of science that it equips the future for its duties.” • Alfred North Whitehead, 1925 70I want to end with pretty much my motto for life, by Alfred North Whitehead, a philosopher ofscience, taken from his 1925 book Science & The Modern World.
  71. 71. Thank you. @antimega• thanks to russ london & WGSIMON for wikimedia cc images 71