‘The invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck’: technology beware…

TVE visited the V&A’s exhibition, The Future Starts Here, to find out how technological innovation will shape the future of brands today.

At the entrance to the V&A’s exhibition ‘The Future Starts Here’ you are greeted by this quote:

‘The invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck’ by French philosopher Paul Virilio

From the off this exhibition is as much a celebration of technological innovation and progress as it is a warning. For brands this is a double-edged sword, and it can cut deep.

Let’s start with the celebration. Some of the exhibits truly are mind blowing, and incredibly exciting. Nanotronics, for example, have created a microscope that allows you to ‘walk through’ the molecular and atomic landscape of cells in virtual reality. The creators state ‘to build the future, you need to be able to see it’. A pretty huge step for science and medicine.

And what about the bio-engineered leaf made from silk protein which can photosynthesise, and could potentially slow down climate change. Let alone defying nature, now we seem to be actually making it.

It took me the whole visit to notice Facebook’s Aquila drone watching over the entire room. Aquila, borne out of Facebook’s mission to connect the next billion, is an atmospheric satellite with a wingspan of a Beoing 737 and is designed to fly for up to three months at a time providing internet access to remote parts of the world using solar panels. Facebook it seems won’t rest until they connect everyone.

But with great innovation comes great responsibility.

Something which feels a bit too close to home: an iPhone sits in a display, challenging onlookers with the question ‘What if that feeling of incompleteness you get when you forget your phone means that you are, already, a cyborg?’

A cryogenics ‘Standby Kit’ made by Cryonics Institute boasts the ability to offer immortality. But who gets to be immortal? Is there a brand out there that can really take on the mantle of delivering life after death?

And then we return to Facebook’s mission to connect the world. If Facebook owns our connection, how much of our life do they lay claim to; what do they control? Nothing is free…

So here we have the warning: are the technological advances of the future leading with hubris and brushing the trickier questions under the carpet?

Let’s take the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal as an example. While it was an impressive and innovative use of tech and data, clearly no one considered the idea that just because it could be done, it doesn’t mean it should have been done. Both brands suffered the consequences of a public outcry with Facebook not only losing $100bn share price in days but also losing brand trust. Without this trust, innovations such as Aquila will prove much harder to get off the ground.

The world of tomorrow is shaped by the technologies of today. For brands this is an opportunity to create life-changing innovations. But as the boundaries of what is possible expands and the world continues to change at an unprecedented rate, brands take on great responsibility.

Shipwrecks have killed thousands, but then again, imagine never leaving the shores…


Facebook’s Aquila in flight

By: Rachel Ballard

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