Futurist Artifacts. Where is the Design Fiction in Chapter 1?

I’m referring to chapter 1 of The Lightstream Chronicles, of course. I’ve decided to write about this since I fear that some folks (who actually care about such things) may have taken a pass on covering chapter 1, because the design fiction element wasn’t obvious or categorically relevant. I will be detailing some of this in future blogs.

The future of The Lightstream Chronicles is built with “artifacts” that, by virtue of the narrative, become infused with meaning. At the same time, they are intended to provide a sense of realism and increase engagement, as well as foster discussion and debate. Because design permeates culture, and is an inextricable part of daily life, as it has been for centuries and will likely be in the future, design also blends in, and the people living in, and with it, don’t particularly take notice of it. As Kirby suggests, this is the purpose of diegetic prototypes: characters take them for granted, which tells the audience that these are, in context, not magical, but rather everyday technologies.

As an example, it is helpful to consider how the current day has evolved. To a mid-20th century audience, the idea of a smart phone or an iPad may seem extreme or fantastic, but in the context of today’s culture, these tools are commonplace and have become significantly less remarkable to the users. The smart phone, as an example, is a designed technology that brings with it new efficiencies, and at the same time, engenders new behaviors. To imagine by what means humanity will communicate in 147 years, the designer must also speculate on what new behaviors that technology will engender. The first step is to research trending technology. In the example of the smart phone, there will likely be the convergence of many technologies. Miniaturization is one aspect. With the relentless pursuit of faster and more robust computing, physicists have calculated that miniaturization will, upon achieving the molecular limit, will come to a grinding halt. Unless molecular computing can pick up the slack, the end of Moore’s law (the idea computing power doubles every 12 months, or so), which is predicated on the use of silicon chips, is predicted to occur in the next 20-25 years. For the purposes of the story, it is assumed that this level of nano-engineering is successful. The next converging factor is the implantation of these devices into the human body. This is already in common technology in cochlear implants, pacemakers and medical information chips as well as security and tracking devices. Combined with advancements in retinal displays through contact lenses and eventually built-in devices, everything that is present-day smartphone technology will eventually be implanted into the human body.

In the future world of 2159, the smart phone is long gone. Relaying and transmitting messages, or images is achieved through the nano “chipset” implanted shortly after you are born. These react with luminous implants just under the skin of the fingertips. Users learn a sequential language of “taps,” fed via the body’s own electrical impulses to the brain to access different content and transmit or receive information. Tapping the correct sequence makes, a “call,” and the user can see the person on the other end through a retinal projection and talk, or simply “think” their conversation. In this instance, design has become internalized. Behavior is the only telltale sign that design is in use.

 

Luminous implants will be the portal to senses, emotions and data.
Luminous implants will be the portal to senses, emotions and data.

Not everything in the story was designed to be ”new.” Many future technologies were imagined as a blend of today and tomorrow. For centuries, society has been had a fascination with furniture and seating that will probably continue, only the materials will change. Just as “antiques” from a previous century find their way into current lifestyles, fashions, and personal artifacts, it is likely that these elements of 20th and 21st century culture will be carried forward into the 22nd century. It is plausible, therefore, that a LeCorbusier sofa winds up in the living space of a character from The Lightstream Chronicles. This mixture of old and new could also be expected in architecture. Though it may be surrounded by radical new designs, classic and even ancient architecture will be continually restored and renewed. Other artifacts like books and art, or artifacts from the past, will likely continue to be collected as they provide meaning and hold relevance in the culture.

Next post:

Building the Visible World

 

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