Now, Next, Future

A little over a week ago, Becky, Jason, Stephanie and I took a trip down to sunny Southern California to attend AIACC’s Now Next Future conference in Santa Monica. When anyone asked me what the conference was going to be about, I jokingly replied, “The Future,” waving my hands mystically. All joking aside, this was actually pretty close to the truth. More specifically, the conference focused on current and emergent technology and the ways in which it will affect how designers think, work and practice in the future.

The conference was held in a Pecha Kucha presentation style, so a lot of ground was covered in the two days we were there. The schedule was jam-packed with speakers, including  Ann Hand of Project Frog, Iwamoto Scott, Dr. Tom Albright of the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture, the head of model production at Morphosis, and a slew of other bright, progressively-minded movers and shakers. The keynote speaker, Skylar Tibbits of MIT, spoke about his research in self-assembling and programmable materials. His TED talk on the subject is fascinating, and definitely worth watching. It was especially inspiring to see the prototypes these designers are making to develop and communicate ideas that fall outside of typical construction methods. Jeff Day of Min|Day gave a rousing talk about craft and process that made me want to head into the BBA workshop and figure out new ways to make things.

The speakers came from a variety of backgrounds: architects, hackers, self-professed geeks, social media experts, BIM technologists, neuroscientists, academics and practitioners. The common thread, however, was the fact that all of these individuals are asking the right questions. The exciting part about all of these new technologies is their potential, and this sort of speculation is necessary to drive the conversation. As Moore’s Law describes, technological advancement is accelerating at an exponential rate. As we hurtle toward harder, better, faster, stronger, designers need to sharpen their psychic skills and take a stab at prognostication to remain relevant. The right questions are critical to way-finding these new territories.

The future is now.