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Future Branding: Voices from 2079

Future Branding: Voices from 2079

A designer’s vision of the future 

This article comes from an edited transcript of the Arc Talk and design presentation delivered by Rodrigo Martinez on April 21, 2015. Watch the video here.

Watch Rodrigo’s slides here.

Voice of Atna, a story builder, 39:

It's dark in the morning.  Quiet.  The only sound is the slow shifting of the habitat below me as it searches for today's energy source.  Like some giant roving beast it sways and roams across the frozen plains promising a different day from today a different place a different world.  As I listen it makes me think of a great elephant gingerly feeling the ground beneath his feet before he commits and puts his full weight on his paw.  I saw one once an elephant when I was young.  It was well before the warm years.  I told my son about it.  He gets so frustrated with me when I tell him stories of my childhood.  He says Atna why are you making up these stories?  He doesn't believe me but he'll be doing the same with his own children one day and they won't believe him.  How could they?  Then the world will be very different than it is today in 2079.

Rodrigo Martinez: 

We are all in the year 2079.  So how did we get here?  Some of us remember.  We used to refer to global warming, which fused into what we just called the warm years.  And then it happened.  It was 2052 some of you remember really well and the Climactic happened.  In over three years most of the Earth froze.  And only one-eighth of all of us of all humanity survived. But we are a resilient species and we came back and we took knowledge that had been lost and recreated it and now we had new knowledge and ideas and we had to work together in a completely different way.  And now we're in the light years rebuilding everything we have.  And we've gotten used to our world today.  But it's something completely different from what they used to experience in the 2020s and the 2030s even the 2040s.  Everything is about survival for us.  And all of those desires that they used to have back then are now transformed really into our need and our want for survival.

So this is our new pyramid of needs.  And survival is much more as a thread that goes around.  In the dark years we worked really hard.  What tactically do we need to do to be able to have enough food?  To be able to still survive in these caves that we under as the Earth froze?  Could we get outside and how often?  And suddenly we realize that if survival was this new mode of being it should also be something that we enjoy and that we have and that joy is sort of intermingled with survival and entertainment.  So who are we?  Well there is all of us and there is also a few characters that I want to talk to you about that hopefully will help us illustrate some of these interesting times that we're on.

Atna - you heard her voice.  She's a story builder and we'll talk about her more.  There is also Mac she's an explorer, Anka a teenager and Sanders, a scientist.  So let's focus a little bit on them and figure out what is it that they're doing and how are they doing it and why.  Atna is 39.  She was actually 20 at the time of the Climatic so she remembers the old years.  Try to focus on the tone how she sees things.  What does she yearn for?   

Atna:

When I look at my son I'm overcome with the urge to share with him the memories of my childhood.  Things like climbing trees and swimming in the ocean.  But I'm also excited to by the memories of his childhood that he'll share with his own children one day.

Rodrigo:

So what Atna do as a story builder?  She has access to all this knowledge that comes from the 30s and the 40s and the 50s.  But she also has access to all of the things that are happening in the small community of people that are living together.  There are about a 150 of us that live together in this community.  And she tries to combine knowledge that somebody figured out for a particular process in a bacteria with something else that had to do with scaffolding with something else that had to do with a recipe for a kitchen.  And pulls together all these little stories that then the rest of us could use for either changing the pants that we need to survive the cold outside.  Or maybe do a new game with our kids that we have get them involved in all the activities that need to happen for survival.

So she puts these stories together this is what she does.  This is the story builder.  This is her role.  She's talking here with her partner Mathos.  Mathos has been gone now for a year and he's been exploring different areas trying to identify different sources of energy new ways of dealing with challenges around temperature control, around you know how do we metabolize certain proteins for example.  And she puts all of those stories together and shares them with the rest of us.  So a key difference of today versus what we used to talk about in the 20, 30, 40s is what they used to think about production and all the infrastructure about it is pretty much replaced through the role of someone like Atna in this integration quickly of ideas.

That they used to talk about it even in the 2030s they still had industries. You know they talked about the food industry and they talk about you know the chemical industry.  They talk about pharmaceuticals.  Most of that knowledge that we need today completely overlaps and is going back and forth in a flow.  So it's really about integrating different pieces of knowledge into different combinations that allow us to survive.  Where do we live?  Well we all know.  Everybody here is familiar with the Elitref? This is where we live.  Us and a couple of hundred people.  The Elitref is our home this is where most of our activity happens.  And we actually took inspiration from the tardigrades that you might remember back in the 2013, 2014 we identified all these interesting things about this little bug that can survive without water for many years and without oxygen.  It can even survive in space.

And it was the high school kids that got inspired about this that started with Atna's knowledge started building the Elitref which is where we live today.  And the Elitref is sort of like you know it's sort of like a biological RV.  Not only is it biological in the sense that it has its own rhythm and its own activity biologically but it also allows for a lot of the things that we need to do as humans to survive. We've been able to talk about all of our needs in terms of survival also happen within the Elitref.  It's interesting.  There was a time back then that some of your might remember those of us that are older when they used to talk about the digital world as opposed to the physical world.  And then some people were very excited about what was coming in the biological world.

You know they were excited about fields like what they used to call synthetic biology.  You remember that back then back all the way to the 2040s.  Not anymore.  Now we just is.  The tools, the processes, the things we do flow simultaneously from the analog and the physical and the digital to the biological.  And it happens in places like this.  Actually I remember three of you working on one of those just last week.  Part of what we've been able to do is identify new sources of energy.  So as you know via the probes as the Elitrefs move around that find bacteria and different viruses to be able to pull energy that we need for all the things that happen in our life.  So let's briefly hear from Mac.  She's 30.  She's what we called an unearther or an explorer.

MAC: An explorer, 30

I've developed a little routine for each discovery.  After marking coordinates and taking a sample I give the discovery a name and a character trait.  Like I'll say this is Franz and he's really brave but has this great since of humor.  It's just a silly thing I started doing.  I think that actually might be why so many people followed my data though.  Franz was a really popular one.

Rodrigo: 

So Mac is an explorer an unearther of new things.  She goes out for two weeks into the snow into these harsh conditions and she finds sometimes a new mineral.  And at the same time Atna is completely connected.  It just happens.  Now we're all connected.  We don't think about are we connected?  Is there a mean a channel to share with you this idea?  We are.  And what she does is she might find a mineral one week.  She might find a different bacteria another week.  Atna then suggests an experiment.  That gets put into the stories by Atna shared to others.  Maybe some of you are working you know in one of the energy places.  Others might just be cooking for the family and yet take some of that knowledge as part of what we need to do.  So Mac does this.

She leaves these beacons as she goes out and those beacons are transformed into these beautiful maps of what is happening outside the Elitreff.  So for Mac what has really allowed for her to do this is this continuous feedback loop of doing, teaching, showing, doing, teaching, showing.  These borders that we used to have back in the 2020s, 2030s of somebody is a professional and was trained in this particular field and therefore teaches to others.  Can you imagine they actually went to classrooms and took notes on paper about learning things that some knew and others didn't?  Now there is this flow of doing and teaching and making and shaping at the same time that others play part of it.

So how is all this done?  Well this partly happens because if you remember 15 years ago what was result of some of the companies that had existed up to then merged into one entity.  And that entity three of us we gave it a – you remember we gave it a voice.  And this is what they used to call a brand or a company, which is very different today.  But that entity that we've done is Varia.

So this company this brand this identity allows for all of that to happen.  But what does it do?  Varia doesn't make products that then somebody has to hire the marketing department to tell a story about them so they go through a channel to push down their throat or everybody else's throat.  No.  It doesn't make services that you need to figure out if you use this one versus that one.  What Varia does is that it enables us individually at a small scale for the 150 of us to try and experiment, do different things, combine things in our clothing or our kitchen or energy source wherever it is.  We're just using the elements that Varia gives to us.  So in what Varia allows us to do is survive creatively.  Varia is this entity that allows us to do this.  And in order to do this we have to collaborate in a completely different way.  And we've had to do it partly because it's 150 of us to do it and other hundreds that are in different Elitreffs.  And we do that continuously. 

The interesting thing is that there was a time where there was a market that would assign value to brands depending on the impact they could have on putting products and services out for people to sort of bid on.  Some of you might remember they bought them.  That is not the case anymore.  There is no market here.  There is no marketing department.  There are a series of needs that we have that we want to enjoy them almost as entertainment that are attached to survival.  And what Varia does and where it captures its value is it comes from all of us using, sharing a story, what about this, could you try this, why don't you take that, could we use that in construction of a new Elitreff.  Maybe we could use it for new instruments in our kitchen.  It's about that sharing and doing that the value comes back into this entity Varia.

So in a way for some of us like Atna and Mac it's a collective learning network.  For others there is an exchange platform of an idea of sharing.  Some of you are very young and you don't even know about this.  But back in the day there was actually companies they were entities sort of like Varia just trust me on this one.  That they had a department that did research and then a department that did development.  For example the pharmaceutical industry.  I'm not kidding it's really.  And they had meetings where they had people that would share the knowledge in a meeting from research to development.  Can you imagine that?  Well not anymore.  So for some it's a connecting hub and for others it's really just a personal toolkit as we go about creatively surviving.  So let me briefly tell you about Anka.  Anka is a teenager.  Yeah some things haven't changed. 

ANKA: a teenager, 15

So I figured out this layering technique for the ice caves.  It gives you a ton of traction without making your ankles look huge.  You've just got to get this one type of breakdown and you're set.  The day I figured that out Atna actually came and thanked me personally in front of my friends and everything. 

Rodrigo: 

So Anka has been making amazing things since she was five.  Actually most of the things that you guys are wearing today she also developed.  And those boots she's been using the same boots for ten years just adjusting and changing new things onto them.  For her there is no consumption as a teenager.  There is nothing to buy.  It's about co-creating and sharing with others what she's been creating.  Sanders is what they used to call a scientist.  There were people that worked in the lab sometimes by themselves for years and others would not even know about it until they read it on a paper.  Can you imagine that?

SANDERS: A scientist, 88

I also think about what life would be like if our colony on Europa could have worked. And I wonder if we aren't better off now. The things we've discovered in my lab alone were imaginable thirty years ago. I've found that sometimes travesty can force humanity to prosper.

Rodrigo:

So Sanders with other tailors they combine knowledge from across different fields.  They used to have different things like physics and the biofields and the different social sciences which of course don't make any sense anymore.  Through this membrane he can actually pull in his working space the knowledge from a field combine it with something else.  A 13-year-old can add something to that and then it gets sent through Atna to a different story.  This is part of what he does.  So now it's about working together collaboration.  And it's about assimilating a series of creation exercises is what is really the new scientific method. 

If these are the dimensions in 2079 what is the role for a company or a brand that back in the 2020s was trying to sell something.  How did we move away from those types of companies and those types of brands to something that is much more in a way you know it's focused on the needs of the humans?  It's sort of like the human-centered brand as opposed to a product or a service-centered brand or a market-centered brand.  So as we go tonight through these next hundred years I would invite you pick one of these.  Make a note of it.  One of that you find interesting around integration of ideas or co-creation or the feedback loops.  And then as you have these different thoughts through the night push that and test that against this dimension.  Maybe we're missing others.  Maybe these are not the right ones these are the wrong ones.  In terms of the companies that make and create many of the things that today we desire what would be different if we really needed them? 

Rodrigo Martinez is the Life Sciences Chief Strategist and Senior Portfolio Director at IDEO.