Design and Existential Risk

I’m thrilled to be kicking off this fall’s Design and Existential Risk lecture series, hosted by Ed Keller and the Parsons School of Design in New York. Things kick off tomorrow, Saturday, October 9th, at 6pm EST, with a simulcast lecture featuring myself here in Los Angeles and legendary writer Bruce Sterling in New York.

As you can see from the flyer, above, the whole series will address the strategic use of science fiction-inflected scenario planning and the rise of “extreme existential risks” at this particular point in human history.

As we enter the second decade of the 21st Century, we are challenged by unprecedented planetary scale events—resource wars, climate change, emerging diseases—which increase in frequency and pose unprecedented problems for mapping and design. What can the role be for design when the reality that faces us is more extraordinary than the worlds we have imagined in science fiction?

Each lecture in the series will thus “explore the ways design thinking engages sustainability and indeed our very survival across near term (5 years), mid term (20 years), through very, very long term (tens of thousands of years and longer) time frames.”

Tomorrow will involve some technical intricacies—such as getting a video feed of myself and architect Ed Keller recorded live here in Los Angeles broadcast into the auditorium in New York City where Bruce Sterling will be interviewed by Carla Leitao and introduced by Elizabeth Ellsworth. But it should work. If all hell breaks loose, though, and the video feeds fizzle, you can still attend Bruce Sterling’s talk in person at Kellen Auditorium, 66 5th Avenue, and videos from both Bruce’s and my talks will be released online later this fall.

Other speakers in the series include Benjamin Bratton, Jeffrey Inaba, Jamie Kruse of Smudge Studio, Keller Easterling, David Gersten, and many more.

Check out the program’s website for more info.

The Museum of Nature

[Image: Museum 2 by Ilkka Halso, featuring a protected mountain. If you look close enough, you’ll also see the roller-coaster, pictured below, as it wraps around the bay…].

A few years ago, I picked up an old copy of Framework: The Finnish Art Review because it looked really good and had some cool images in it – and, even now, I think it’s an interesting magazine. I don’t regret the purchase.

[Image: Museum 1 by Ilkka Halso].

So I was flipping through it again the other night, looking for something, when I re-discovered a bunch of photographs by Ilkka Halso.

The images are part of an amazing series called the “Museum of Nature,” and I’m frankly still in awe of the project.

[Image: Roller-coaster by Ilkka Halso].

The basic premise of Halso’s digitally manipulated work is that “nature” has been transformed into a museum display – yet the public’s interaction with this new, endangered artifact is limited to spectacular roller coaster rides, perfectly reflected in the still waters they pass over. Alternatively, you can visit this steamy, delirious, quasi-Parisian gallery of iron and glass roofs built arching into disappearance over pine forests.

[Image: Kitka-river by Ilkka Halso].

These are “shelters,” the artist writes, “massive buildings where big ecosystems could be stored.”

The more I think about this project, the more interesting it gets; someone should write a novel set in this place – a kind of eco-catastrophic sequel to Westworld, perhaps – or, at the very least, someone should put Halso’s images on display in the United States. They’d also make a gorgeous spread in Wired.

In any case, be sure to spend time clicking around through Halso’s site. It’s worth it. And check out another of Halso’s projects, featured on Pruned back in 2005.