The Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design was excited to have the opportunity to hear from leading Futurist, Sophie Hackford, in our virtual Zoom room lecture theatre this week to discuss everything from AI and surveillance through to dystopian data use.
As a futurist, Sophie Hackford is deeply concerned with how we can live safely and freely in the new phase of the digital era, which is best illustrated by the differences between the old Internet (a luxury service that we started off with) to the new Internet (something that is invisible, that we live within).
Related post: How the Internet became a utility and not a luxury
Sophie Hackford’s Industry Talk at CNC
To get us thinking about how technology has woven its way into our everyday lives, Sophie introduced some of the questions and concepts circulating in tech at the moment. This was to inspire curiosity around the practical uses of technology so that we can begin to imagine it and use it as an even better resource.
Technology Is Only A Superpower If We Use It Like One
The current coronavirus crisis was a touchpoint for addressing our practical uses of technology. If we can, as Sophie mentioned, use Amazon Prime robots to deliver Haribos to our doorstep, then why haven’t we used them in care homes, to clean hospitals or collect samples for nurses during the pandemic? We are so used to data being used commercially, to monetise and influence our behaviours, that considering data’s potential outside of commercial work opens a realm of possibilities. It could be introducing more Internet-connected medicinal tools like Kinsa’s thermometers, which (by using the data from one million thermometers across the US) detected a decrease in COVID-19 related fevers well before the Center of Disease Control.
Surveillance and the invisible nature of the Internet can make imagining a life lived freely and safely in the digital era feel tough, but with the right information and imagination, we shape and predict where our future is heading.
5 Key Takeaways From Sophie Hackford’s Industry Talk
- What AI Actually Is: Data systems built by humans and influenced by their biases, that have a huge impact on our lives.
- The Digital Twin Thesis: Large physical assets (like, transportation systems) are underpinned by a digital back-up that exists in the cloud, for example, digital maps of cities created for the use of self-driving cars. Essentially, there’s a copy of the world that exists and it isn’t meant for humans.
- Luxury Versus Imposed Surveillance: How technologies like Apple watches or a DUI ignition interlock both. Technically, they both do the same thing: monitor your internal functions. However, we perceive them in completely different ways.
- The Role of Artists: “It’s important that we are provoked by artists to think differently about the world, otherwise we’ll sleepwalk into dystopia,” said Sophie. She then went on to show us two disruptive artists, Lauren Lee McCarthy and Mac Pierce.
- Preventing Dystopian Data Uses: If we don’t pay attention to how data is being used and how we can be using it better, then we may sleepwalk into some serious consequences in the future.
By Megan McClelland, MA Fashion Media Practice: Fashion Journalism