Week Five

What is the future? Histories & Predictions


Released in 1927, this 84 year old German expressionist silent film is still hailed as a classic and can even be seen as relevant today with renewing fears that we will be controlled by technology, especially with our growing reliance on things such as the internet and technology in medicine. Metropolis is an example of how we use popular culture to predict the future, and while being an exaggerated artistic film, today it reflects on how we as humans are becoming more and more programmed to perform with a machine. This can relate back to last weeks lecture where Lizzie discussed self-serve check outs at large chain retailers – here we are part of the machine rather than interacting with a cashier. (Although arguably the cashier is just another extension of their machine.) This sort of prediction, warning us of technology, often survives longer in relevancy over predictions of an amazing future full of glamorous technologies.

In contrast, Popular Mechanic’s ‘Mircales You’ll See In The Next Fifty Years’ (Feb, 1950) makes some hilariously bad predictions, such as food from sawdust. (2) However, these sorts of miraculous and glamorous technologies were parodied in their time, such as in this Tex Avery cartoon ‘Car of Tomorrow”. (3)


Chris Riedy and Aleta Leder’s lecture provided some great definitions and models to predicting the future. In particular STEEP (Society, Technology, Economy, Environment, Politics), backcasting and forecasting and the ‘Iceberg’ of Litany, Systemic Causes, Worldview and Metaphors should prove to be useful in the course of designing in this subject and beyond. Leder’s examples of interpretive artworks provided some good inspiration for the coming project.


Forecasting and Backcasting was utilised in this week’s class, following the aforementioned models, particularly STEEP. We discussed how we feel the future will progress, as well as what our ideal future would be and backcasting the steps to get there. This provided some insightful ways of looking into the future and trying to understand how we can work and design towards the future we want. Although unfortunately, we came to a consensus that in order to force society to become more responsible and sustainable something catastrophic would have to occur. Another exercise we did was collating some images – our theme was positivity towards becoming slaves to technology. At the beginning of this session we viewed some IDEO videos which also provided some interesting ideas for how the future could look as well as prompting discussion.

(image of class exercise needed)


1. Metropolis, 1927, Fritz Lang

2. Popular Mechanics, Feb 1950, Mircales You’ll See In The Next Fifty Years http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2006/10/05/miracles-youll-see-in-the-next-fifty-years/

3. Car of Tomorrow, Tex Avery, 1951


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