Two Little Ducks – Designing for the 22nd Century

Think ahead to 2100. Can you?

In 1948, George Orwell wrote the futurist book 1984.
In the early 80’s we sang about 1999.
In the late 1990’s we panicked about Y2K.
All this has come and passed.

Here in London, the 2012 Olympics are right around the corner.
2020 has been used and overused as a target for ‘visioning’ exercises.
2030 is still far enough away to make the Climate Change pledges seem achievable.
Anything beyond 2050 feels like the distant future, unpredictable, almost inconceivable.

So why do I suggest you consider 2100? Because of my daughters. My own ‘Two Little Ducks’, Carmen and Anaïs, sleeping in the next room as i write this at 2:22am, were born in 2008. That year that the average life expectancy of UK babies hit 100. I am not joking. OK so technically, they should live to see 2102. But what I’m saying is, 2100 is not a date beyond our own, personal interests. My daughters, and their peers, will grow up with 2100 in their sights, expecting a liveable peaceable planet and a good standard of living, hoping to avoid the four horsemen of the apocalypse in the interim. C22 will be their ‘future’, not C21st. I am sure that my own grandmother, who was born during the First World War and who turns 94 tomorrow, never expected to live to see the second decade of the third millennium.

I work in Design for Education. I am an architect and interested in the technologies for learning as much as the buildings. I am amazed that, already into the second decade, C21st remains a valid euphemism for ‘the future’. It makes me cringe, it must confuse, amuse or disappoint those tech-savvy kids all around us, aged 10 and under, who never knew a year starting with a ’19’.

My challenge therefore is for every designer in the world, to spend 22 seconds, minutes, hours or days, imagining the people, planet, profits and potential of the year 2100. I won’t be around to see if you’re right, but the chances are, my Two Little Ducks Carmen and Anaïs will be.

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