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Future of Life: Revisited

30 participants from 20+ nationalities and 15+ disciplines met up at Färgfabriken to take a leap into what the future might look like in 20 years.

We had an amazing time exploring the Future of Life last week! 30 participants from 20+ nationalities and 15+ disciplines met up at Färgfabriken to take a leap into what the future might look like in 20 years. By diving into topics such as Mating & Dating, Aging & Dying, Eating & Cooking, Thinking & Feeling and Curing & Caring, we experienced future scenarios and delved into the ethical dilemmas facing us. If you weren’t one of the lucky participants, don’t worry, we have a Future of Life video coming up where you will be able to experience the event. For now, here is a summary of what we were up to.

Day 1: Exploring the Scope

The day started out by participants self-organizing into groups of maximum diversity. Using an exercise called “The Cartesian Profile”, students placed themselves on a spectrum by answering questions such as “in reference to the world map, where did you grow up?” and “how rational / esthetic would you rate your academic discipline?”. Afterwards, students formed groups with the students furthest away from them in distance. The rest of the day was spent delving into the topic and learning about megatrends and societal shifts within Mating & Dating, Aging & Dying, Eating & Cooking, Thinking & Feeling and Curing & Caring.

Day 2: Digging Deeper

The next day we had some great speakers including Anna Omstedt Lindgren talking about her journey as an entrepreneur and Oytun and Theresia from Eatit.io sharing their knowledge and expertise in the future of food. The participants then delved deeper and spent time researching their respective topics. In order to widen the future horizon, the students explored how aspects such as new technologies, cultural shifts, economic downturns or environmental factors might impact their field in the future. By asking and attempting to answer “what if?” questions, the participants were able to take a more speculative perspective investigating questions such as “what if there was no pain?”, what if we could control attraction?” and “what if our implants were hacked?” These questions led to ethical and critical discussions about what kind of future is plausible, possible and desirable, and how AI and new technology might change the role of human beings in society.

DAY 3: PROTOTYPING THE FUTURE

On day three, we hosted some more great speakers including Hoa Ly from HelloShim.com who talked about our relationships with technology and social media and how we become more mindful around the services we use. We also welcomed Inna Matsaniouk from VR SciFest, who talked about the revolutionizing nature of VR, AR and MR and why it is changing the world. Our third speaker out was Samer Yammine, serial entrepreneur and Project Manager at the Unit of Bioentrepreneurship at Karolinska Institute, who talked about DNA screening and the intersection of psychological research, biology and the environment. After these doses of inspiration, the participants were challenged to start prototyping their future scenarios. This was done by imagining what certain artifacts and behaviors would look like, exploring what a protest could be about, what medicine we might eat, what might be considered a crime or what the headlines might say on The New York Times. By making the reality more concrete, participants were able to practically imagine and act out the future.

 

DAY 4: PROVOKING AND PRESENTING

The last day was all about creating, testing and iterating the experience. Participants got to design and play out an experience from this future and engage the audience in ethical and thought-provoking discussions. Many of the experiences turned out to be so well performed that the future seemed both close in time and plausible. For example, the jury got to physically experience what a world run by AI would look like, where AI would decide who gets healthcare based on the probability of contracting a deadly disease. This scenario turned into a discussion about how unbiased AI really is, what a life is worth, whether we would want to know the exact time of our death and how our relationships with each other would change by such a fact. Another experience took us into the future of dating, in a reality in which our romantic attraction would be visible to the outside world through a constant measuring of changes in hormone levels such as dopamine and serotonin. Discussions turned to whether such a reality would be desirable, if the magic of falling in love would disappear and what might happen if we stop relying on our feelings and instead look to our technology to tell us what we feel and for whom? A third experience took us into the future of food, into a setting thirty years from now in which each nation has become responsible for its own food production. Questions from the audience led to discussions such as how that would affect our view of national borders, cultural diversity, power structures and geopolitics.

 

After careful deliberation by the jury, the winning team was the “Ageing and Dying” group, a dystopian future in which AI is used by governments to decide who receives healthcare and who does not. All in all, it was a very thought-provoking and exciting bootcamp where ideas about what the future of life might look like were discussed and ethical dilemmas were explored from a multitude of perspectives.

Thank you Bayer Sweden for your great enthusiasm and support, thank you Pomme Van Hoof and Maria Stockhaus for designing and leading the process, thank you to all our wonderful guest speakers and thank you to all participants for giving so much of your time and energy to make this into such a memorable amazing Bootcamp!

PS. Stay tuned for an upcoming The Future of Life video to get a visual glimpse into what we were up to, peek into the creative process and hear from what the participants themselves have to say about the experience.