Speculative Vision/ Miranda Beitel

What if the already steady incline in nationalist behavior was increased drastically by political rhetoric on wholehearted devotion to ones country and the fear of losing vital aspects of our ecosystem. And therefore collapsed capitalism due to the focus of the betterment of the nation instead the accumulation of personal wealth. Resulting in a socialist nation with such devoted citizens that government and law became similar to religion and the protection of natural resources became sacred.

In this new America, meat is not provided by animals but grown in petri dishes in labs via stem cells. This way the animals remain unharmed and the balance of nature intact but the public has a steady supply of antibiotic/growth hormone/cruelty-free meat. Farming is considered a very noble profession and the farmers are some of wealthiest people in the community. All farming is organic and completed almost entirely by several advanced self driving machines and the farmer simply oversees the machines and fixes them if they breakdown.

Everyone who lives under this government is divided by bodily needs. Pregnant mothers or Carriers all live together to ensure they all receive proper care and rest during pregnancy. They are also able to receive private daily visits. Children are watched and cared for in schools that double as daycare units while their parents are at work. Instead of dividing up school into primary and secondary and high school education buildings, all students report to the same high rise structure for class so the older students can mentor and help care for the younger ones. As you grow older you have a mandatory number of mentor hours you must complete to continue receiving unpaid schooling. College is also free and is also located in the same building as the other ages. However you must mentor a mandatory 25 hours a week to attend.

At the start of a woman’s period she undergoes what is called the Moonling ceremony. The ceremony is public and it’s a celebration of the child becoming a young adult. Once the ceremony is over, the Moonlings all file into a building where they will stay during the duration of their period— to ensure they are healthy, to discuss birth control options, and to be provided with the necessary care items they need. When any adult woman receives her period during the month she goes to the Moonling center to have a check up on reproductive health, discuss the effects of her birth control if she is on any, and to receive the feminine napkins or products of her own choosing. For the duration of the week, she stays and helps run the Moonling center in exchange for the healthcare items and services. The Moonling center is also a nature center designed to allow Moonlings to connect with nature during their period. It is the responsibility of the Moonlings to care for the different ecosystems located in the nature center as part of their required service work in exchange for their feminine products and care.

Once a baby is born it is highly recommended that both parents take a year of paid leave with their child. It is their duty in this year to raise their child and keep it healthy as well as teach their child to commune with nature. Although there are still cities in this nation there are vast plant ecosystems growing all along the buildings to provide more food but to also remind the citizens how important their connection to the Earth is. There are strict environmental laws in this country. One can be jailed for destroying nature or for the creation of pollution. All electricity is solar and wind powered and cars are powered visa solar panels built into the roadways.

Although capitalism has been abolished, patriarchy remains. And therefore the inequality of men and women still exists. In this world, there is much more peace where there wasn’t before and people want for less— but there are new forms of suffering, inequality, and uprising. Women have to work for their specific healthcare. And although the work is considered noble and sacred, they must leave their jobs to tend to it once monthly causing several issues with women in their regular working lives. Eco-terrorists attack this new way of life as a form of protest to the new rules and regulations. They are considered enemies of the state as well as unholy. The melding of government as the upholder of nature and nature as a new government sanctioned pseudo-religion only offers a mask of peace. There are still several systematic issues of disparity but only taken into new forms.

Reading Response 5/ Miranda Beitel

Four Futures addresses a lot of concerns about our possible future world that I had been considering while we discussed our new tech research. When Rachel discussed her finding of a machine that can create garments on it’s own, I began to worry. The treatment of garment workers is abhorrent in some cases and something certainly needs to change. However, if you replace the workers with a machine, how will they accrue income? Just like Charlie’s dad at the toothpaste factory from Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate factory, automation can cause already starving families to be left with no income, no other prospects, and no hope. It’s true that  advances in automation will replace some, if not many, human jobs entirely but it’s also true that automation can also create new jobs. At the end of Tim Burton’s film I mentioned, Charlie’s father gets a better job repairing the machine at the toothpaste factory that replaced him. But will there be enough new jobs created by automation to allow all of the working class they replaced to live their lives comfortably? Will the 1% actually make an effort to protect the environment in their quest for automation and money? As Frase states, if we hope to move toward a state of greater equality in the future world of automation— we will all have to have shared sacrifice and shared prosperity. And to do that, I agree, we will require a new economic system than that of capitalism.

Another interesting idea discussed was the idea of growing babies in artificial wombs to allow women to be free of the role of reproducing the labor force. I’ll admit this isn’t likely to happen. A great deal of women want children and want to carry their child and experience the miracle of birth. It is, however just one of the many ways women are oppressed by capitalism. They are expected to produce, raise, and care for the labor force and aren’t compensated for that. They also may be a part of the labor force themselves but are getting paid less than men for the same jobs. Imagine if women could find a way to break this cycle of oppression that not only comes from the role that they are taught to play as unpaid mothers and caregivers to the labor force but also the extreme class barriers imposed on everyone as a result of capitalism. Capitalism needs women to be compliant to this system for it to function so if women decided to find some way to no longer participate, they could possibly bring about the direct end of capitalism. This type of revolution, however, has happened before and the results were rather undesirable. So what kind of future should we expect to have if we were to let capitalism deteriorate on it’s own?

Frase referenced the exact quote I chose from the Streeck reading to sum up what is happening to capitalism. Basically Streeck says that capitalism is already deteriorating, regardless of the fact that there is no obvious replacement. There is no telling when or if it will disappear but one thing is certain, there is no currently available force that can reverse the decrease in economic growth, social equality, and financial stability. So which of the four futures Frase described are most likely? It’s easy to believe that the 1% won’t quietly stand by and compromise and we need them to for a communist or socialist society (or something similar) to take place. But many argue that socialism in America is already well underway. An article from The Nation describes several cities who are experimenting with public ownership. Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Santa Fe, New Mexico are all working toward municipally owned banks. Four hundred and fifty communities have established municipal owned internet systems. Now what if we were to scale this model up as an attempt to fight corporate oppression? Would capitalism crumble and be replaced immediately? What kind of resistance would it be met with? It’s safe to say that the future isn’t clear but based on these actions there is evidence of hope for a better economic system in the future.

Reading Response #4/Miranda Beitel

Envisioning Real Utopias by Erik Olin makes some valid points about how to strive for alternative futures. He claims that social alternatives cannot be created or evaluated without examining their desirability, viability, and achievability. He argues, however, that the viability of the purposed alternative outweighs the desirability and achievability in importance. He goes on to say that desirability is easy to analyze and achievability is too difficult. Desirability without achievability and viability is simple because we can easily lay out something morally sound based on our values and goals. But achievability on it’s own has too many uncertainties due to the volatile nature of planning for the future. I can see where he is coming from and I respect his method. But I think he is possibly underplaying the difficulty of desirability.

To say that is it easy to map out a desirable future outcome negates the idea that everyone has a different view on what in desirable. What is desirably to someone can be completely undesirable to someone else. Consider his example of Universal Basic Income. The idea has merit but was met with a lot of debate among philosophers as to whether it would be desirable. Compare this concept to the idea of Universal Health Care. UHC would involve a similar kind of action: a large raise in taxes. A few countries have successfully implemented this in their government but lets think about what it would take to convince people this was a desirable outcome in America. For people who are ill or have chronic disabilities, they would take little convincing. This outcome would be extremely desirable for them because it would directly impact their lives at this moment. People who are not ill, specifically younger people who are not ill, might not find this idea as desirable because they are healthy enough to not need it in their immediate lives. Which could very well change if they look to the future and realize that once they get older their health will deteriorate. All in all when it’s broken down the idea of desirability does not seem very simple to me at all.

I found an article from Quartz.com that describes how the lack of Universal Health Care in America has a direct link to America having the highest health care spending in the world. The author claims that the US spends 2 to 3 times as much per capita on health care than most other industrialized countries. Of this financial burden about two thirds of it falls on the governments shoulders through medicare and medicaid and health insurance benefits for government workers. All of this doesn’t seem very desirable either but we have yet to agree on an alternative. Coming up with solutions isn’t easy and Erik Olin didn’t argue it was. I think his three principles of evaluation are valid but I also think they are all equally difficult to analyze.

New Tech Research/Miranda Beitel

Researchers at the National Graphene Institute at the University of Manchester are creating a flexible battery that can be printed onto virtually any type of clothing. This is revolutionary because it drastically expands the options for wearable tech. Whereas before there was need for a bulky battery or a constant need for recharging, graphene has an extremely long battery life and charges extremely quickly.  It has 20% stretch and it also causes fabric to become stronger and tear resistant making it ideal for clothing applications. They hope to use it to create smart clothing that can sense when you are cold and regulate your body temperature. It could also be used for wearable heart monitors, EEG sensors to monitor sleep and brain activity, an would have phone charging capabilities. The wearable tech would also be able to be wirelessly charged without taking it off. You could, in theory, make dinner wearing the garment while it charges via a wireless charging station on the wall.

Graphene is only one atom thick and although it has been proven ideal for wearable tech it could also have other applications. Including computers so thin you can roll them up like a newspaper. Or a smartphone that you could wear on your wrist like a fabric cuff. The major drawbacks include the outrageous cost to produce it as well as it’s ability to conduct not quite standing up to copper or silver. The main potential problem with this tech that I can think of is that one day we could possibly become reliant on it for our healthcare. It would be amazing to be able to predict a stroke or heart attack with this technology but what if we become too reliant on it? What if we stop going to doctors for regular check ups and the tech misses something and we get sick or die because of our reliance on the tech? What if the tech replaces all doctors in general and is able to detect and diagnose us thus putting lots of doctors out of a job? There seem to be many benefits to this advancement and I’m excited for it. But I hope we don’t become solely reliant on it for our medical care/diagnosis.

Reading Response #3/Miranda Beitel

My project on the Near Future Laboratory relates to this reading in a big way. I won’t go into extreme detail to avoid spoiling my presentation but a lot of the Near Future Lab’s design fiction projects are centered around the dark matter of the future. Basically it has more to do with how we interact with things in the future instead of what the products of the future might be/how they work. I will talk about this more in depth on Thursday.
Overall, this reading provides a more in depth description of a concept we discussed on our first day of class. The idea that for every product we create, we must imagine it in a room, within a building, within a city, within a future world. We have to understand the whole system in which the product is created for to create something that works well and is user friendly.
That being said, it seems that systematic design is very similar to user centered design. It’s actually very hard to differentiate the two in my mind. The only difference I can really name is explained in the section about reforming the lease structure in Westbury. Because although the dark matter of the space changed, they didn’t add any new matter to the space. User centered design requires a product or exchange with a user but systematic design doesn’t necessarily need an exchange of matter. Both forms of design are centered around how the user interacts with a product or space within a certain environment but only one requires an actual exchange of matter. It will be interesting to think about this comparison during my User Centered Design class this semester.

Reading Response #2/Miranda Beitel

Although this reading was rather dense it was a really interesting topic. I have had a lot of building frustrations about capitalism that I have never been able to properly express but now I feel that I have a much better understanding. It seems that capitalism is not about making money anymore but about accruing more and more debt and bailing companies and banks out of debt. Which was obviously not it’s original goal and is a symptom of it’s decline. This only touches on two of three trends of decline that is pointing toward the end of capitalism which are: a steady decline in economic growth, social quality, and financial stability.
My major frustrations with capitalism stem from this idea that today, I feel we spend all of our time working to get more money only to spend it to try and make ourselves feel fulfilled. And in turn we have to work harder to make even more. We have just become a cog in this machine that is capitalism. And some would argue, my parents mainly, that if you only spend your money wisely then you won’t have a problem. Which is not entirely true due to inflation. We have to work twice as hard if not harder to get the same amenities that our parents could afford on a part time job when they were our age. But this is also anti-consumerism idea. We have been trained to over consume by marketers who were hired by corperations to make money. We over consume because we are taught that we need to in order to be happy. And in turn this also to feeds into capitalism. All the while we are either working hard to survive but also to buy things we don’t need. But because of this cycle we are also falling into serious debt.
I found it interesting when the author described how capitalism might fall. I always imagined flames and government decrees but they do make a good point:

The image I have of the end of capitalism—an end that I believe is already under way— is one of a social system in chronic disrepair, for reasons of its own and regardless of the absence of a viable alternative. While we cannot know when and how exactly capitalism will disappear and what will succeed it, what matters is that no force is on hand that could be expected to reverse the three downward trends in economic growth, social equality and financial stability and end their mutual reinforcement.”

I always thought that we would have to set a plan into motion. I felt that if capitalism were to end, we would have to do it by force and have a completely new system ready to take it’s place. But the author seems to think that it would happen on it’s own and what rose from it’s ashes might be the way we find out what supersedes it. Similarly, I found an article from The Guardian that discusses what economic system political advisor Jeremy Rifkin thinks will replace capitalism. He believes that from the ashes of capitalism there will be a new model powered by the amazing pace of innovation in energy, communication, and transportation. He believes that it already exists and is changing our world but we just haven’t “framed” it yet.  Interesting to think about. The answer we’ve been looking for might already exist and may already be in motion.

Reading Response #1/Miranda Beitel

I would first like to start by discussing the 3 chapters from speculative everything. Chapter one describes the idea behind speculative design and what it hopes to achieve. They explain that things cannot continue to function the way they have because of the shift in climate, population, politics, and general outlook on the world. The quote I relate to most is one that explains that the younger generation today doesn’t dream— they hope. They hope that we will one day change our way of life so that we can continue to have water to drink, food to eat, air to breathe, and space to live. Everyone is dissatisfied with the way things work now this includes the political climate, the treatment of the earth, and the general way people interact with each other. Speculative design is about creating something totally new. And not just a new style but something based in new values and ideas.

Chapter two explains what happens when designers stop thinking about how things are marketed. And how this allows designers to consider new possibilities for design within all realms and the social, cultural, and ethical implications of design. This removal from the market can open so many doors because you don’t have to consider how things are now but how they could be and create something completely new.
Chapter three is the most conceptual but in my opinion one of the more radical and impactful concepts we’ve discussed so far in the world of speculative design—design that critiques the way things work today as a means of raising awareness for change. This concept is known as critical design. Critical design is about creating something that challenges the status quo and forces people to think about what could be. This might not seem very important to some because it might not be something that can be realistically used or implemented in our current society but it wasn’t created for that reason. It would be created for the purpose of challenging what is, making people see a current fault in how things work today, or seeing something that could one day be real—almost like a dream. Sometimes people need dramatic reminders of why things may need to change or be challenged which is why this form of design can be so impactful.

The other article from Fast Company was brief but very compelling. It put into words the frustrations I’ve been feeling for so long. Mainly, that we are destroying the earth, ourselves, and our future all to make more money. We cannot eat money, breathe money, drink money or live on a pile of money. This article is about the futile nature of capitalism and how one day, hopefully sooner rather than later, we will have to create a new system completely. Both of these articles come together to show how important speculative design is. Because we cannot sustain ourselves in a capitalist society over time and we have to create an entire new way of life. And to do that, we need speculative design.

I found a company called Super Flux that specializes in speculative design. I looked through their website and found a TedTalk they gave about their company and what they do. They explained the difficulty that comes along with speculative design and how you have to be willing to fail to achieve a solid understanding of what you’re trying to create— and the future you’re trying to create it for. This idea is intimidating as we start this semester because I know I will fail multiple times and no one likes to fail. But failing in it’s own way can be a victory because you’re still getting closer to your goal.