TECHNOLOGY, CRAFT AND CREATIVITY – FRIENDS OR ENEMIES?
Design Shanghai’s reputation has broadened and deepened over its sixth massively successful years, and the Design Shanghai Forum has become renowned as the place where the key design questions of the day are asked. It’s the pre-eminent platform for debate about directions for design. We are not interested in comfortable self- congratulation, where the story is merely of the latest chair or newest table, interior or building; at Design Shanghai we are concerned to dig deep into the meanings of design and evoke the responses of the world’s finest creative minds to the question: ‘Where is design going?
For 2019, we are ready to dig yet deeper. It’s time to tackle the truly big questions facing design: the true nature of creativity, the true value of craft in a technology-driven world, the true impact of that technology on societies both eastern and western, and the true picture – as far as we can see it – of the future that these concepts are shaping.
This year’s theme: Technology, Craft and Creativity – Friends or Enemies? – could not be expressed and explored with such power and relevance anywhere else on earth but China. The country is determined to become the world leader in Artificial Intelligence (AI) by 2030; arguably a social and technical innovation as revolutionary as the internet itself, AI is many things to many people – from the cab driver who wonders how long his or her job will exist to the programmer using deep learning to create autonomous weapons.
For design and designers the first question has to be: ‘Will robots be doing my job? And if so, what will I be doing?’ – but we move quickly on from that. Artificial Intelligence makes us consider the emotional resonance of craftsmanship, the growth of human conscience and consciousness, and the all-encompassing question: ‘Why are we here?’ AI isn’t just about learning more about your customers so you can make them happier quicker. It’s about how our minds and imaginations work, and whether machines that learn can ever think and create in the same way – or better.
Crucially, AI is about human values. Do we sign up to bombs that think, or do we harness this amazing power for global good? Let’s hear the words of Yves Béhar, recognised design pioneer in the field (and invited speaker to Design Shanghai 2019 Forum); ‘We need to think beyond what AI does for search, social media, security, and shopping – and beyond making things merely “smarter”. Instead, we should imagine how AI can be both smart and compassionate, a combination that can solve the most important human problems. AI must free our attention rather than take it away, and it must enhance human connection and abilities rather than replace humans.’
Depend upon it: if you really want to get to grips with these fundamental questions, there is only one place to be in March 2019 – the Design Shanghai Forum. See you there.
Aidan Walker, Design Shanghai Forum Programme Director