The theme behind this year’s Technoport conference is based wholly on the humans behind technology; the interaction between society and technology. How the two connect, feed upon each other and make society as we know it possible. The fact is, in the world as we know it today, one cannot exist without the other. As speaker Wiebe Bijker of Maastric University explained on day one: “Society is technically built but technology is socially constructed.”
Making the impossible normal
Technoport’s 2017 programme consists of several interesting personalities, with the opening speaker having acted out what for many was a childhood dream; visiting Space. Colonel & Astronaut Chris Hadfield of NASA inspired the audience talking about “The necessity to inspire the young. To imprint upon them a sense of normal that is different from the one we grew up with.”
Hadfield painted a picture of our earliest ancestors, who realized that using a sharp rock would enable you to cut things, like food, revolutionized the world for humans at that time.
When Hadfield joked about how if we ever get the chance to go into space, we should use a straw to drink the water, otherwise the bubble will burst, it made the everyone in the main room chuckle. For most of the delegates (around 1000 of us) attending Technoport – the idea of going into space is a far fetched one, a thought that we would never even let ourselves fantasize about now that we are adults. But what Hadfield is saying, is that when our children tell us they want to become an astronaut, tells us that they want to save the world, that they have an idea which will minimize pollution, or maximize food crops, we shouldn’t laugh at them or pat them on the head. Instead we should indulge them, challenge their ideas, make them further develop the notions they have started talking about, we should let them try out their ideas in practicality. Perhaps they will fail, not only once, but many many times. After all, only the human factor can make real changes in the world and sometimes you have to fail in order to succeed later in life. If it were not for the inventors, the entrepreneurs, the people in these seats, the people populating the planet, we would still be making breakfast without knives and without fire.
And in the end it is all up to us, what future do we want to build? For ourselves and for our children? Why should we colonize the moon, or any other planet for that sake? Well, do as Hadfield and think of a space ship as the Viking ships of our age. In order to expand our society, inhabit other areas, seek other futures for ourselves and future generations, one must think outside the box. This is why we must teach our children to not be afraid to use their brains to solve problems that we face today. Hunger, pollution, diseases to mention but a few. We have to build a society where innovation meets humanity, it is out duty to make the impossible seem normal.
Does such a thing as a shitty idea really exist?
Let’s take a step back to 1885, and imagine Roentgens concept of the X-ray machine, a machine that could see what is on the inside of a patient. Impossible, surely? Not know that we know better, I mean we can use video communication to talk to people on the other side of the planet, we can fly drones in a country far away, all these abnormal ideas that came from SOMEWHERE. It’s a bit like Simone Giertz aka the Queen of Shitty Robots said earlier in the morning. “When I made that helmet which brushed my teeth for me, it was just for fun, I was making fun of myself, but it blew my mind when I got several comments saying that my idea was good! That something like this would really revolutionize the lives of people with mobility issues.”
Through my work in a communications agency in Trondheim, we always work on the assumption that no idea is a bad one… Okay, we all know that’s not strictly true – there will always be a couple of really crap ideas in amongst the 100’s that come up in a day of workshops. But the point behind this thinking is that you DO NOT KNOW which idea will be the good one and which is the shitty one before you delve deeper into it.
So the lesson from today is – don’t be afraid to think outside the box, or to encourage your children to – we never know which might be the next idea to transform our lives and reality as we know it. Day two, here we come….
Photos: Wil Lee-Wright for Technoport