How will we want to live tomorrow? When it comes to answering this question, designers in all disciplines play important roles as they propose ideas, develop processes and structures and/or shape living environments and relationships. A future worth living can be created in environments where mindset and design are attentive and sustainable. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of being flexible and creative today to develop new “futures.” This is one of the reasons why Shaping futures by Design is the slogan of MCBW 2021.
Nature and technology as opposite poles
Designed by Kochan & Partner, the MCBW 2021 key visual expands early manifestations of natural life to include artificial elements: The android octopus symbolizes encounters between evolution and the future and between nature and technology. These features deserve a great deal of attention not only because of their extreme vulnerability but also because of their essential potential for innovations and sustainable solutions – design potential that must be leveraged responsibly.
Deep sea geniuses
Octopodes, also referred to as cephalopods or as octopuses, may be some of the planet’s most fascinating creatures. For more than 500 million years they have been journeying through deep seas, coastal waters, and tide pools. They range from tiny bobtail squids measuring only a few millimeters to giant species of more than five meters. Octopodes have blue blood and three hearts. Their arms and legs are attached directly to their bodies, allowing them to be in perpetual motion with the gracefulness of dancers. By nature octopuses are adaptable, very fast, and strikingly intelligent. This is why they sometimes are referred to as the humans of the oceans. Octopodes express their thoughts and moods, for example, when communicating with friends or foes, by changing their skin color, and they adapt quickly to a changing environment. These sensitive, smart and rational creatures exhibit an explicit interest in the world around them: To try to understand it, they observe, react, and continue learning instinctively. These skills also are of utmost importance to us humans, particularly when it comes to creating the future.
Human skills – boon and bane
From artificial intelligence and bionics to genetic engineering, mankind has made great strides in how it confronts nature and technology. While we celebrate our continued research successes, nature continues to hold numerous secrets and surprises for us, some of which we may unlock unintentionally. Man-made phenomena such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic are daily reminders that each of our advancements comes with a set of responsibilities. How far can we push our society ahead without provoking unpredictable reactions from nature?
Androids, our "new" friends
We treasure our relationships with androids and robots that merge the artificial and the natural. Modern literary mention dates back to the turn of the 19th century. Both Maschinenmann (1789) by Jean Paul (born in Wunsiedel, Germany) and Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (1818), part of which takes place in Ingolstadt, Germany, are examples of world-famous works which reference Bavaria. The early days of film also saw human-like robots, for example, Metropolis (1927) by Fritz Lang, that were both fascinating and menacing. While robots have become indispensable in many fields, so far androids mainly are employed in the care sector, for household chores, for entertainment purposes, to push food tray carts, dispense beverages, clean windows or floors, and to carry heavy loads. Androids can translate texts into sign language for people with hearing disabilities and can help autistic persons improve their communications skills. However, in some cases androids have not been able to measure up to the expectations set for them. For example, more than half of the 243 robots at a robot hotel were removed after guests complained. At the same time, medical implants may increasingly be transforming people themselves into androids.
MCBW 2021 key visual: the Octoid
MCBW 2021’s key visual typifies the many-sided responsibilities vested in people who design the future: With its head reminiscent of a robot, the octopus combines the robust appearance of technology with elements of nature’s vulnerability. The butterflies symbolize transformation processes, and the fresh green color on the android’s “ear” embodies miniature gardens that constitute their own ecosystems. The creature’s synthetic skin references current research projects that enable robots to perceive their environments in more detail and respond appropriately to changes. The composite of octopus and android that is the Octoid represents a bold vision of the future because a future worth living requires passion and flexibility, instinct and intellect, thoughtfulness and progress.
Our future – a question of design
As we continue relentlessly to globalize, digitize and accelerate our world, the need of society and of the economy for sustainable and socially responsible concepts and courses of action increases. How we want to live, learn, communicate, and work tomorrow is a matter of design. In this complex time, MCBW sets out to address this challenging and at the same time exciting confrontation with the future and take a look at tomorrow’s world through the eyes of design. MCBW’s special focus will be on the Future of Health, Future of Security, Future of Work, Future of Education, Future of Communication, and Future of Cities.
Copyright pictures: MCBW & iStock