Posts Tagged NBIC technologies

Don’t forget that the Arts and Sciences are still BFFs

Article published in the Design Management Institute’s Quarterly Newsletter, Q4.2008

@ BIL conference in Long Beach 2.7.09

Just as DMI’s Remix conference recently shed new light on the mixing and converging forces within Design Management, another interesting conference held in mid-November at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View explored the connective tissue forming between Nano, Bio, Info and Cognitive (or NBIC) technologies. Although these two conferences, Remix and Converence08, were held on opposite coasts, their nature and societal implications are actually much more intimately linked than one might think.

It’s not by coincidence that classical education has consistently partnered the Arts and Sciences under one roof. As we know, many great scientific discoveries come from leveraging design thinking rather than from analytical brute force. However, over the years we have squirreled our scientists away in labs and transformed artists into commercial tools. But times are changing, and it is exactly in these labs that radical technologies are brewing along with the growing need for an artist’s sensitivity and intuition to help make these new resources and their benefits accessible to a wider audience.

For example, some of the technologies discussed at Convergence08 were AGI (Artificial General Intelligence), which pushes machine intelligence beyond single-skill proficiency to a more robust and sensing interface capable of helping humans make better decisions. On the Nano front, substrates developed with nanotech coatings form materials with luminescence, strength, weight and conductive properties unimaginable even 5 years ago. Developments in Biotech offering personalized gene sequencing for an entire family shed light on what inherited land mines may await. Where it really gets interesting is when these fields converge, as in DNA computers that replace silicon with DNA or in nanomedicine, which uses machines the size of cells to carry out medical procedures.

But really, what do NBIC technologies have to do with Design Management? Well, opportunity for one. User interfaces have to be designed, the data portrayed in the most intuitive and useful way possible, the benefits, functionality and risks communicated visually, and radical new products branded. These technologies are no longer amorphous what-ifs but rather have very real applications, many of which are already seeping into daily use within our electronic gadgets. As futurists such as Ray Kurzweil like to point out, we are at the point in the curve where exponential technological growth is about to shoot through the roof, and now is an excellent time to think about how we plan to manage the future.

So shouldn’t the design thinkers, who are experts in modeling products, services and communications precisely to the needs of humanity, have a greater role in directing the way society interfaces with the exploding new science and technology? Right now we have the opportunity to help design a positive future by choosing first to be aware of what’s being developed and then actively participating in how and where these scientific advances are applied in our products, services and daily life. This partnership between design thinking and scientific thought was once the norm; maybe it is time to rekindle the friendship.

Natalia Ilyin responded to my article in her blog…

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