This article is an excerpt from a report by Partners in Foresight, The Home of the 2020s: Scenarios for How We Might Live in the Post-Pandemic Future.
The homes we inhabit in the 2020s could serve as a personal headquarters for building the good society. How can a house help create a more positive future? Here are four ways the home of the future might support meaningful personal commitment to the greater good.
1. Advocate From Home (AFH)
During the pandemic lockdown period, a new wave of civic engagement has taken hold. A trend called Advocate From Home (AFH) takes the form of digital organizing (e-mail, text banking, content production) for political, ecological, social and economic justice, often using work-from-home tools.
2. Decentralized Energy
Households are embracing renewables in terms of solar energy and decentralized systems with independent home batteries. There are revolutions happening in the world of clean kinetic energy that could transform our spaces by allowing objects to collect and then transmit power. Future homes may be self-sustaining in terms of power and energy needs.
One way people express environmentalist values at home is through a love of nature. Outdoors, there are green options for the visionary homeowner, such as garden plots, low-intensive watering solutions, use of native plants and compost bins. Inside the home, people are gravitating to hydroponically grown vegetables and herbs. Indoor plants of all kinds are at the height of interior design trends and architecture is looking to biomimicry for sustainable ideas. Pets outnumber children in US homes.
4. Shrinking Footprint
In terms of actual home structure, the tiny home and 3D printed home craze are growing. A recently completed project constructed a house from recyclable coffee grounds and there is growing consumer demand for sustainable bricks and concrete. Fashion and home décor choices tend toward fair trade, recycled materials, resale, and upcycling. Mindful consumption to manage our ecological and ethical footprint is a key value consumers may continue embracing well into the 2020s.
How would you change the world from your home? Share your ideas in the comments!
View the full report The Home of the 2020s: Scenarios for How We Might Live in the Post-Pandemic Future: https://bit.ly/2TbCYf2
This article is an excerpt from a report by Partners in Foresight, The Home of the 2020s: Scenarios for How We Might Live in the Post-Pandemic Future.
Scenario Vignette 1: Hotel Life
Hotels and abandoned malls become pandemic-proof senior citizen communities
Travel and retail sectors were never the same after the 2020 disruptions. It was not that they never recovered, but they were never the same.
By 2030, a glut of abandoned real estate (hotel, entertainment, and retail that had succumbed to economic pressures of the pandemic) had become gradually renovated to accommodate a growing North American retirement population. They borrowed pandemic-proofing ideas from communities in China built in response to COVID-19 and retrofitted blueprints of housing designed for Mars colonization. Futuristic concepts were thrown at a single social problem: how to build safe, sustainable, and economical retirement communities and nursing homes.
The living arrangement could provide adventure, allowing for a surprising variety of movement and mobility. Hotels became more like timeshares where residents would move (in clusters, aka “pods”) from place to place, seasonally sometimes. The once-thriving international tourism economy still sputtered in 2030, but groups of older Americans revitalized the classic recreational hotspots of the 20th century (Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, the Great Smoky Mountains). Older people who had survived had become precious members of society after the pandemic and they were seen as honored guests at all national landmarks.
For less mobile seniors, outdated malls were transformed to indoor cities with clinics, exercise trails, and community kitchens all within hundreds of steps of where seniors slept in dormitory-like rooms. Green renovations to the buildings themselves allowed for indoor gardening/farms and many of the cooperatives had a net-zero impact thanks to effective sustainable design elements. Senior citizens were well-looked after by respectful physicians, social workers, and health care professionals in these settings. Young people often volunteered to help out. There was recreation and education for all ages and abilities, and it was given freely to anyone over age 65. The operations were fully funded by taxes (US $0.01) on e-commerce retail transactions.
Scenario Vignette 2: Unschooling Crusaders
A generation embraces homeschooling in lockdown
Edgar is a 15-year-old American boy who, for as long as he could remember, has been homeschooled by his parents who were working from home.
They never dropped him off in a school carpool line or packed him a lunch to eat away from home. Instead, the entire family found a different rhythm in the wake of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. Edgar was only five years old in 2020, so he lacks memory of a time before his parents worked at home and helped him take online classes.
In his early teenage years, Edgar’s interests began to surpass any existing online school curriculum. His parents transitioned him to an unschooling approach, letting Edgar pursue his passions rather than a pre-established curriculum. With his parents’ support, Edgar is now planning to enter college early and has started a nonprofit organization to support ecological and social justice.
A lot of kids in Edgar’s generation discovered unschooling because of the pandemic. It wasn’t just the healthcare systems that were overwhelmed in 2020 America; public school systems were, too. Edgar and some of his peers were lucky to have parents that worked from home during the lockdowns. Their classmates that didn’t have such privilege lost everything when schools closed. Some fell behind academically, some got sick, and some disappeared completely. Many of their parents worked in retail, restaurants, travel, and various “essential” jobs.
Unschoolers like Edgar were actually drawn to unschooling when they noticed the vastly different experiences they and their friends had in their early years even though they were in the same public school systems at the time. Unschooling, an unlikely school reform movement, was on its way by 2030…with young people in charge of their own learning.
Scenario Vignette 3: Corporate Coliving
Class of 2030 MBA grad moves into a communal home sponsored by her employer
After the pandemic, the US higher education system was a disaster. Student loans had been forgiven and eliminated by 2025 and a lot of new options to finance college had appeared.
A student called Haley opted for the sponsorship route — the Big4 consulting group had prescreened students from her high school and Haley had been selected to be sponsored at a university and housed after graduation. All she had to do was accept a 10-year assignment with Big4 after college at a subsistence salary (45% less than a non-coliving salary), and all her living expenses would be covered. Even in college and throughout grad school all of Haley’s meal, housing, and transportation expenses were subsidized by the corporation which she’d later call work and home. Part of the way the company paid the tuition of their future employees was by eliminating office space altogether.
They’d once occupied vast and palatial offices in urban centers around the globe. Instead, Big4 had put their money into coliving/coworking spaces starting in 2020. Having early access to the talent pipeline ensured a smooth transition and, as a plus, kept training costs down. Housing and feeding employees had shown to be a much better business proposition than generous salaries, according to the Big4 shareholders.
Haley daydreamed on her way to meet a date at the café. Although she’d been out of the bubble a few times, she mostly stayed within a group of coworkers with similar jobs, upbringings, and educational backgrounds. It dawned on her now that coliving, which sprung from the economic and psychological aftermath of COVID-19, could seem highly social but was actually incredibly isolating. She remembered a popular meme she had seen often as a teen during the 2020 lockdown that showed a flustered figure standing in a messy room, asking: “Am I working at home or living at work?” Even in 2030, no one knew the answer.
View the full report The Home of the 2020s: Scenarios for How We Might Live in the Post-Pandemic Future: https://bit.ly/2TbCYf2
What might the end of work mean for the future of buildings? Firstly, a significant proportion of the built environment that has up to now been designed for people-centred economic activities —offices, shopping centers, banks, factories and schools—may over the next 10–20 years house 50% or less of the number of workers with far fewer physical customers. Furthermore, with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), some organizations might run on algorithm alone with literally no human staff.
The future of jobs is not just about employment, but about larger societal shifts with dramatic impact on the use of space and resources. Indeed, AI is increasingly likely to provide a meta-level management layer — collating data from a variety from a range of sources to monitor and control every aspect of the built environment and the use of resources within it.
Today, at the dawn of the AI revolution, some of the latest technology coming at us involves mixed reality; advances in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are buzzing with new uses in places of work, education and various commercial settings. Teaching and training are exemplary uses — enabling dangerous, rare or just everyday situations to be simulated for trainees. Such simulations also provide the nexus point for humans to work alongside AI. For example, robot surgeons might do the cutting, while a human surgeon looks on remotely via video or a VR/AR interface. How might places be redesigned to accommodate this human-AI hybrid job future? The outcome could be spaces that embrace the blurring of physical and digital worlds, possibly with multi-sensory connection points between the two.
The coming wave of AI in business and society could impact the future design, use and management of buildings in dramatic ways. Key design features, including construction, security, monitoring and maintenance, could become coordinated by highly automated AI neural networks. For example, future office buildings might make intelligent responses to their inhabitants’ moods or feelings in order to increase productivity of humans in the organization—varying lighting, temperature, background music, ambient smells, and digital wallpaper displays according to the motivational needs of each worker.
In the post-work, shared infrastructure economy architects could also factor in ‘multi-purposing’ in the design of new buildings and the remodelling of existing ones. For example, why couldn’t schools double as courtrooms, doctor’s, surgeries, social centres, libraries, etc. in the evenings and during holidays?
Empty space could become more and more of a liability to towns and cities as retail and education move online. In the USA up to 1,000 retail outlets a week are currently being closed. A Texas firm has suggested a design for old shopping malls and retail outlets as drone ports, for example. Other options might include repurposing them as maker spaces, community centres, pop-up cafes, and adult learning outlets. The pace of automation of retail and commerce is likely to be exponential: imagine a chatbot that could coordinate drone deliveries of the groceries ordered by web-connected smart refrigerators that run on IBMs Watson AI platform. Intuitive and predictive AI seems set to revolutionize the home and business.
As advances in the cognitive sciences accelerate, there is growing fascination with the idea of neuro-architecture as control mechanism in a post-work society: will mass automation and efficiency expectations justify the construction of buildings that are responsive to people’s needs, read moods, use biometrics, and conduct behavior-conditioning of employees? There are a number of reasons to think these strategies could become accepted practice. Many AI analysts argue that, rather than compete with robots, humans will do more meaningful and important work than ever. Hence, the use of building design to evoke certain feelings, enhance moods and creativity, and the use of behavioural insights to motivate the workforce could provide an important advantage in the new ‘cobot’ normal of humans working alongside intelligent robots.
As work becomes automated it also becomes more cloud-based and fewer offices need the amount of space they once did or for the purposes space once served. New uses of space to accommodate virtual AI workers and to provide a comfortable environment for human employees will be in demand. Furthermore, replacing actual workers with code means the layout, design and supplies necessary for the typical office would completely change. The role of AI in reducing the amount of people and ‘stuff’ places must accommodate should open up considerable opportunities for building redesign.
Designing to a post-job future doesn’t necessarily mean that high-tech has the advantage. There will be valuable opportunities to inject a touch of humanity to key settings where people will interact with AI —work, home and public spaces. The rise of AI means we must consider different visions of the future where 50% or more of the workforce is automated out of a job and the new sectors haven’t taken up all the displaced individuals. With the right perspective, positive design adjustments can help make the post-work future meaningful and more human. However, the transition will be challenging for all concerned.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
The authors are from Fast Future which publishes books from future thinkers around the world exploring how developments such as AI, robotics and disruptive thinking could impact individuals, society and business and create new trillion-dollar sectors. Fast Future has a particular focus on ensuring these advances are harnessed to unleash individual potential and enable a very human future. See: www.fastfuture.com
Rohit Talwar is a global futurist, keynote speaker, author, and CEO of Fast Future where he helps clients develop and deliver transformative visions of the future. He is the editor and contributing author for The Future of Business, editor of Technology vs. Humanity and co-editor of a forthcoming book on The Future of AI in Business.
Alexandra Whittington is a futurist, writer, faculty member on the Futures programme at the University of Houston and foresight director at Fast Future. She is a contributor to The Future of Business and a co-editor for forthcoming books on Unleashing Human Potential — The Future of AI in Business and 50:50 — Scenarios for the Next 50 Years.
The city of the future is a symbol of progress. The sci-fi vision of the future city with sleek skyscrapers and flying cars, however, has given way to a more plausible, human, practical, and green vision of tomorrow’s smart city. Whilst smart city visions differ, at their heart is the notion that in the coming decades, the planet’s most heavily concentrated populations will occupy city environments where a digital blanket of sensors, devices and cloud connected data is being weaved together to build and enhance the city living experience for all. In this context, smart architecture must encompass all the key elements of what enable city ecosystems to function effectively. This encompasses everything from the design of infrastructure, workspaces, leisure, retail, and domestic homes to traffic control, environmental protection, and the management of energy, sanitation, healthcare, security, and a building’s eco-footprint.
The world’s premier cities and architects are competing to design and build highly interconnected smart environments where people, government and business operate in symbiosis with spectacular exponentially improving technologies such as big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, hyperconnectivity, artificial intelligence (AI), robots, drones, autonomous green vehicles, 3D/4D printing, smart materials, and renewable energy. The architectural promise of future smart cities is to harmonize the benefits of these key disruptive technologies for society and provide a high quality of life by design. Some have already implemented smart city architecture and, as the concepts, experiences and success stories spread, the pursuit of smart will become a key driver in the evolving future of cities as communities and economic centres. Here we explore some of the critical trends, visions, ideas, and disruptions shaping the rise of smart cities and smart architecture.
Smart Cities – Purpose, Engagement and Vision
The evidence to date from smart city and smart architecture initiatives around the world is that the best results come when we have a clear sense of what the end goal is. However, in a fast-changing world, it can be hard to develop a clear future vision and strategy when stakeholder goals are not aligned, where every sector is being disrupted and all our planning assumptions are being challenged. A city vision might take 5–15 years to roll out – for many businesses and individuals it is almost impossible to think about their needs 24 months from now. However, the challenge must be overcome and City governments have to work together with architects to create inclusive processes that inform citizens about the forces shaping the future and the possibilities on the horizon, and then engage the population in dialogue concerning the kind of future city we want to create. We have to explore what a liveable city means to its people and be clear on how we will design and build the structures to support that vision. Alongside this we need to articulate a clear vision and direction around education, environment, public services, access to justice, city administration, and civic engagement. These pillars then provide the guiding requirements which will in turn influence the design of the physical, digital and human elements of the infrastructure and building architectures that enable a smart city.
Big Data: Smart Architecture to Power a City
Smart cities are designed to inform decisions by capturing massive amounts of data about the population and its patterns, such as water use and traffic flows. This information gathering results in big data, which is essentially gathered via different forms of surveillance. The ease and affordability of cameras, sensors, AI and advanced analytics in the future will mean this data gathering function may become completely automated. Indeed, the data will be collated from a constantly evolving and expanding IoT, encompassing traffic lights and cameras, pollution sensors, building control systems, and personal devices – all literally feeding giant data stores held in the cloud. The ability to crunch all this data is becoming easier due to rampant growth in the use of devices, algorithms, AI, and predictive software that all run on networks of high performance computing and storage devices.
Singapore is a leading example of a smart city, and is constantly evolving its “city brain,” a backbone of technologies used to help control pollution, monitor traffic, allocate parking, communicate with citizens, and even issue traffic fines. Singapore’s “brain” is also attempting to modify human behaviour. For example, one system rewards drivers for using recommended mapped routes, and punishes those who do not. Now imagine expanding this use of big data into human foot traffic around and within the very buildings of a city. For years now, companies like Pavegen and Veranu have been developing flooring that harvests the energy of walking and converts it into electricity. By analysing foot traffic patterns, smart architects may actually design entire buildings powered solely by their inhabitants’ movements.
Internet of Things: Redesigning Spaces
Smart cities rely on advanced technology to make sense of massive arrays of data. Indeed, the amount of information on the internet is expected to grow exponentially as a result of the IoT. Essentially IoT means that everything (“things”) – and potentially everyone – will be networked beacons and data collection devices, gathering data on ambient and behavioural patterns from our surroundings – feeding this information to the city brain in the cloud. Hence, after data, the IoT is the second driving force behind the rise of smart infrastructure: For everything from air conditioning to parking meters to function effectively and seamlessly in a smart city, the use of microphones, sensors, voice recognition, and all sorts of other high-tech gadgetry must be hooked up to the IoT.
Architects and planners are already beginning to explore the possibilities – indeed, technology players like IBM, Hitachi and Cisco are all betting big on IoT-enabled smart buildings. Exhaustive monitoring of internal building conditions offers the potential to provide future occupants with seamlessly and continuously optimised living conditions while reducing energy and space wastage. Today’s smart sensors can recognise occupancy patterns and movement to switch on air conditioning or lights for a person before they even enter a room, and shut off these systems as they exit. The more we know about the specific individuals, the more we can tailor those setting to their personal preferences.
In the near future, buildings will potentially be built on a smart IoT grid that monitors, controls and automates smart lighting and intuitive HVAC to create the perfect environment while drastically decreasing energy wastage. Furthermore, IoT devices combined with big data analysis may help architects redesign and readapt buildings to minimise energy wastage, and maximise space usage — both shrinking resources in our every growing cities. Single use facilities like meeting rooms – traditionally unused for periods of time – may be redesigned as multipurpose spaces that support a whole host of day-to-day business activities based on analyses of data gathered via IoT. Indeed, a smart building may even take on the management of meeting rooms to sell vacant space to third party users on a per minute basis.
Sustainability: Smart Building Materials
Finally, from architectural design perspective, all this data and awareness will enable decisions that make the best possible use of all material resources with an emphasis on sustainability. This is a very logical outcome and benefit of the merging of big data, AI and IoT which is feeding into the rise of smart architecture.
Given that the UK has recently broken energy use records with solar meeting almost a quarter of energy demands, there is significant potential for the sun to become a mainstream power source in current and future building designs. There is also a new scientific forecasting tool to predict solar weather, which will make the rollout of solar on buildings (and in homes) a more feasible option. Eventually, with a growing array of such distributed power solutions, a centralized energy distribution grid for homes and businesses may not be necessary.
Additionally, the exponential growth in and reduced cost of solar technology may lead to entire cities designed to generate their own electricity. Rather than glass windows, skyscrapers could be covered in transparent solar panels that, through IoT monitoring, turn slightly opaque as the sun moves over them throughout the day, allowing the darker panels to not only gather more energy, but also shade the building’s inhabitants and decrease cooling costs. Researchers at RMIT University in Australia are currently working on a solar paint that absorbs moisture from the air and turns it into hydrogen fuel, one of the cleanest sources of energy available. Soon, architects may begin designing buildings based around maximising the benefits of these next generation ‘smart’ materials.
Cities Get Smart
The smart city movement has the potential to transform the organisation of people, materials, and physical objects in a way that transcends urban development as we know it. The shift to smart architecture is not simply fashionable or aspirational; in many ways, it appears to be a critical enabler of the future sustainability of cities. It can be argued that the future of human life on the planet rests on a smooth transition to cities that are more efficient, less wasteful, and more conscious of the impacts of the individual upon the greater good.
It is now possible to create and deliver a city vision with citizens at its heart and that is enabled by forward thinking infrastructure coupled with judicious use of enabling technologies. A well thought through vision, enabled by robust and well-executed smart architecture, could provide a foundation stone for the next stage of our development, where science and technology are genuinely harnessed in service of creating a very human future.
About the authors:
The authors are futurists with Fast Future who specialise in studying and advising on the impacts of emerging change. Fast Future also publishes books from future thinkers around the world exploring how developments such as AI, robotics and disruptive thinking could impact individuals, society and business and create new trillion-dollar sectors. Fast Future has a particular focus on ensuring these advances are harnessed to unleash individual potential and enable a very human future. See: www.fastfuture.com
Rohit Talwar is a global futurist, keynote speaker, author, and CEO of Fast Future where he helps clients develop and deliver transformative visions of the future. He is the editor and contributing author for The Future of Business, editor of Technology vs. Humanity, and co-editor of a forthcoming book on Unleashing Human Potential–The Future of AI in Business.
Steve Wells is the COO of Fast Future and an experienced Strategist, Futures Analyst, and Partnership Working Practitioner. He is a co-editor of The Future of Business, Technology vs. Humanity, and a forthcoming book on Unleashing Human Potential–The Future of AI in Business.
April Koury is a foresight researcher, writer, and publishing director at Fast Future. She is a contributor to The Future of Business, and a co-editor of Technology vs. Humanity, and a forthcoming book on 50:50–Scenarios for the Next 50 Years.
Alexandra Whittington is a futurist, writer, faculty member on the Futures programme at the University of Houston, and foresight director at Fast Future. She is a contributor to The Future of Business and a co-editor for forthcoming books on Unleashing Human Potential–The Future of AI in Business and 50:50–Scenarios for the Next 50 Years.
Maria Romero is a futurist and foresight researcher with Fast Future. A recent graduate from the University of Houston Master in Foresight, Maria has worked on projects for consultants, NGOs, for-profit organisations, and government clients. She is currently working on a study of AI in business.
“The attention of architects and designers is radically improving life on water. A new book “Rock The Boat”, out now from Gestalten, explores their work, and shows that “aquatecture” isn’t all portholes and painted timber, but rather modern, innovative and resourceful.”
In this piece I propose some additional reasons why imaginative education is becoming an approach of choice for parents wanting their children to become innovative, ecologically aware and even, as Whitehead suggests, to develop genius.
The three factors of genius are the habit of action, the vivid imagination, and the discipline of judgment. Alfred North Whitehead, 1916.
When we offer children a lifeless, stale education, we not only destroy their vitality, but we dumb them down. Through industrial era excesses we have altered the biosphere to the extent that our planetary homeland may in the foreseeable future become inhospitable for human habitation. Climate crisis is recognised as a global geo-political issue. How can young people be expected to contend with such catastrophic futures? How can we turn around dead, stale thinking, awaken ecological thinking and bring education back to life?
Evolution of consciousness research tells us that 19th century mechanistic thinking is giving way to more life enhancing thinking. In the early 20th century Whitehead’s process philosophy, Einstein’s relativity and quantum physics turned Newton’s building block universe on its head. Is education keeping up?
A few well-known educational pioneers made significant contributions to overhauling the factory model of education and breathing life into it. The ideas of Maria Montessori in Italy, Rudolf Steiner in Germany, John Dewey in the USA and Sri Aurobindo in India are still alive today globally. But they have remained relatively marginalised. How can the best of these ideas be spread?
Several contemporary educational approaches can help to shift static concepts to living thinking. One of the most important is Kieran Egan’s imaginative education. I first met Kieran at the “Imagination and Education Conference” (2009) in Australia, after completing my PhD on evolution of consciousness and its importance for education. I became particularly interested in his five developmental stages of imaginative education: somatic, mythic, romantic, philosophic and ironic. It synergised wonderfully with Jean Gebser’s structures of consciousness: archaic, magical, mythic, mental and integral.
Australian advocate of imagination in education, Bernie Neville, compared Egan’s stages with both Gebser’s structures of consciousness and psychologist Robert Kegan’s orders of consciousness. I discuss this in detail in Postformal Education, in Chapter 9: “Pedagogical Life: A Sustaining Force.”
Other contemporary educators who believe imagination plays a crucial role in transforming education include Jack Miller from Toronto, Ron Miller from the United States and Thomas Nielsen from Australia.
Life and its metaphors are also emphasised in ecological, environmental and sustainability education. David Jardine talks about developing “ecological imagination” in young people. Similarly, ecopedagogy grew out of the First Earth Summit in Brazil in 1992 under the influence of Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy. In addition to its home in Latin America, ecopedagogy is thriving in Bulgaria through the influence of young sociologist, Stefan Grigorov.
Futures studies and foresight education, with their links to sustainability and citizenship education, play a vital role in ecological awareness. They help develop a sense of responsibility for long-term futures of life on our planet, the survival of our companion species and life itself. Futures education with young people may involve workshops in which the young people imagine possible, alternative and desirable futures, before creating the action plans that empower them to create their preferred futures.
We can also encourage life-enhancing values and increase vitality through promoting pedagogical life in simple practical ways. We can ground children in nature through gardening, creative handwork, and following daily and seasonal cycles, rather than mechanical clock time. I share a couple of enlivening examples from the school I founded in the 1980s, when alternative energy was still a relatively new idea. With the help of a low-impact alternative energy expert from the local region, we designed and built a swing set that was like no other. When the children swung on the swings, once their kinetic energy built up to a certain degree, a light bulb installed in the frame of the swing set would light up. To the children, this was pure magic. And yet it was a magic that they had created with their own energy, while they were playing!
In a second project we built a large stone structure with a water wheel at the top and a series of sculpted clay-fired flow form basins through which water flowed down like a waterfall into a pond nestled into a sandpit beside a see-saw. When children rode the see-saw, the kinetic energy of their weight moving the see-saw up and down pumped water up, turning the water wheel and pouring water down through the flow forms. The children were empowered to experience their own kinetic energy transforming into another kind of energy—physics through imaginative play. Even these primary school children learnt important lessons in physics through their bodily kinetic activity, which they would only learn about conceptually in high school, when they studied physics.
Finally, creative school architecture is an increasingly popular way to stimulate children’s creativity and imagination – to help them to think outside the square. Creative school architecture is iconic to Steiner-Waldorf schooling, but more recently has become a benchmark for top international schools in Scandinavia, Japan and elsewhere. See below the colourful kindergarten in Tromso, Norway.
To read more about Jennifer’s idea on Imaginative Education:
Human civilization has always been a virtual reality. At the onset of culture, which was propagated through the proto-media of cave painting, the talking drum, music, fetish art making, oral tradition and the like, Homo sapiens began a march into cultural virtual realities, a march that would span the entirety of the human enterprise. We don’t often think of cultures as virtual realities, but there is no more apt descriptor for our widely diverse sociological organizations and interpretations than the metaphor of the “virtual reality.” Indeed, the virtual reality metaphor encompasses the complete human project.
Virtual Reality researchers, Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson, write in their book Infinite Reality; “[Cave art] is likely the first animation technology”, where it provided an early means of what they refer to as “virtual travel”. You are in the cave, but the media in that cave, the dynamic-drawn, fire-illuminated art, represents the plains and animals outside—a completely different environment, one facing entirely the opposite direction, beyond the mouth of the cave. When surrounded by cave art, alive with movement from flickering torches, you are at once inside the cave itself whilst the media experience surrounding you encourages you to indulge in fantasy, and to mentally simulate an entirely different environment. Blascovich and Bailenson suggest that in terms of the evolution of media technology, this was the very first immersive VR. Both the room and helmet-sized VRs used in the present day are but a sophistication of this original form of media VR tech.