Design trends from CES, as observed by Core77. We question the notion that what is put on display by large corporations endlessly-seeking quarter over quarter growth is really evidence of trends, but it's informative to see what those companies would like to be the trends of the moment.
Roadmapping the Future:
- Behind the plethora of obscure brands thrown at you by web or mobile ads is a mesh of niche e-commerce tools, digital surveillance, AliExpress goods, and gig-economy-precariats drop shipping those same goods. It's a flurry of nearly meaningless activity, a 21st century arbitrage that obfuscates consumer choice, and adds noise to an already cacophonous system of trade. These gameable systems have stifled some of the internet's earlier free-wheeling energy. Micro-enterprises (along with artists, writers, and musicians) could previously gain exposure primarily through the word of mouth that followed quality of goods or content, slowly building a loyal following capable of extending their message for free on large social platforms. That technique has mostly gone away, now creators and small businesses must pay for each additional unit of reach, increasing customer acquisition costs and leaving less money for improving the products themselves. WIRED's profile of the Outlier brand covers their pursuit of advanced fabric and construction methods, but also how the company's early tactics leveraging an engaged customer base and word of mouth will no longer get them the publicity they need.
Feeding the Future:
- Agricultural lands of the future will likely be populated with more autonomous equipment than human farmhands, a turn that could maintain or increase yields while reducing the need for harsh herbicides and fertilizer. This could mean organic produce at lower prices and less wear-and-tear on topsoil.
- Workers making their livelihoods via platforms like Uber or TaskRabbit can have a difficult time navigating the ins and outs of work given the lack of human management, co-workers, and near-constant attempts of those platforms to extract maximum value from workers. Those factors are product of deliberate design decisions by the app-makers, but workers have found ways to connect by creating forums to share knowledge.
- The modern workday schedule, in the culture since the Industrial Revolution, helps organizations turn time intervals into predictable units of output at the expense of life's natural ebbs and flows. Real Life magazine describes the attempts some are making at "off-peak" living that evades the rigid social fixturing of 9-to-5.
- The most comprehensive examination of all those VR-as-empathy-enabler stories we've seen, from Rose Eveleth. Her speculation on how VR might play a role in everything from harassment training to criminal trials is particularly astute, and highlights how a powerful technology like VR can easily slip from immersive narrative tool to invasive trauma tourism.
- A recent emergency message declaring an incoming missile was sent in error. Ian Bogost at The Atlantic writes about the technological and political progression of emergency notification system, and how our current era of instantaneous messaging might be make such errors more dangerous than the slowly-diffusing methods of the past.
- Community owned and operated networks are cheaper and better than their big-business (arguably monopolistic) counterparts. Not exactly surprising, but an idea worth extending to other aspects of life.