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THE ROLE OF DESIGN IN A PERIOD OF IDENTITY CRISIS.
“Who is responsible? Here we have many examples of brilliant innovations, but the issue of responsibility is key and must be addressed. Who is going to be responsible for the future?” – asked Piero Bassetti at the closing of Design Will Own the Future event organized by the Giannino Bassetti Foundation at Singularity University, in Silicon Valley.
The same question remains appropriate for the example we are dealing with here. In this unbridled innovation landscape in which one user group spread across the globe, such as Quantified Self, is capable to unleash a new technological paradigm shift in a few years, who will be responsible and who will handle the issue of choosing a development path suited to human nature?
Piero Bassetti is the president of the Giannino Bassetti Foundation, a Milan based non profit organization whose mission is to promote responsible innovation. He is a key figure in Italian politics, having been the first President of Lombardy from 1970 to 1974.
Bassetti Foundation mission was to call for reflection by bringing Italian artisanship and design together in the forefront of the technological world epicenter, which, beyond any doubt, is California.
Inevitably, this also suggests a possible answer to the above question: who better than designers can begin to direct innovation toward horizons appropriate for our nature? Designing not only the object, but “the impact of innovation” itself, as the same Dr. Bassetti pointed out.
This was also the theme of Estensione, a university course I conceived and ran together with Francesco Samorè, presented within Final Synthesis Studio in Interior Design Degree at the Milan’s Polytechnic University, coordinated by Prof. Giulio Ceppi.
Through lessons and a cycle of open lectures, we explored the newest advancement in sciences and technological innovations, closely related to the human body at different levels. We explored subjects such as DNA and personal genomics, 3D printing of biological tissues and prostheses, as well as wearable technologies and smart spaces. Technology is now able to connect the nanoscale, defining our biology, to the macroscale of the environment surrounding us. An ‘extension‘ of our minds and bodies towards the outside.
In a climate of change in regards to the usual low tech approach to the project in the italian academic environment, the students were presented advanced technological issues.
In addition, this academic project and this article desire to serve, in a certain sense, as an appeal to the new generations of designers and more generally to the Italian design to return to be an active player in the technological innovation.
The Italian project’s culture, enjoying a worldwide recognition in regards to style, intellectual depth and humanistic inheritance, has in fact all it takes to get directly involved in the field of new technologies.
This historical period sees a crisis which, yes, is economic, but is even more a crisis of values and human identity. The new man, free from religious and social dogmas, is still confused about self identity, and is more than ever in need of sensitive and responsible ‘human’ innovation.
In a very near future, intelligent devices will make possible the externalization of consciousness and of the Self. A digitalized and quantified Self on a wrist-worn display, which will be constantly haunted by the risk of being lost in the cloud of the Internet of Everything.
In this modern scenario, where technology, biology and psychology are inexorably mixed together, designing the artificial have more than just a mild impact on the human race. Today, more than ever, designing artificiality means redesigning humanity.