By Tom Goldthorpe  Back in September London’s Tobacco Docks played host to the 3 rd annual FutureFest innovation fair and I was luck...

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Technology.

By Tom Goldthorpe 

Back in September London’s Tobacco Docks played host to the 3rd annual FutureFest innovation fair and I was lucky enough to attend. Education, the Environment, Creativity and even Romance were put under the microscope as field leaders probed how innovation in technology was shaping our future.

Wearable tech was cast aside in favour of embeddables as brave volunteers embraced RFID implants at FutureFest’s inaugural biohack party. Hannes Sjoblad, co-founder of the Swedish biohacker network Bionyfiken, invited intrepid audience members to the main stage where he surgically inserted microscopic NFC chips into their hands. These chips could then be programmed to perform a range of functions, from keyless entry to password storage and data encryption. Although possible uses are currently quite limited, Sjoblad discussed the potential of such technology as humans begin to truly integrate themselves with the Internet of Things.
Unfortunately the technology is still in its infancy and a (since deleted) tweet from one of the organisers revealed that one chip subsequently caught fire after the demo!

Elsewhere, robotic prosthetics, brain-computer interfaces and exoskeletons displayed how boundaries are being pushed with assistive technologies for individuals with disabilities. One haptic feedback prototype, originally designed to aid in musculature recovery following surgery, allowed users to physically interact with virtual reality. It used a series of robotic actuators and a glove-like controller to provide realistic resistance to objects touched and handled inside the virtual environment. Whilst there are a plethora of additional applications and uses for such devices, the recent boom in VR pornography (estimated to already be worth in the region of $800m a year) would no doubt be keen to utilise any new technology that would make the experience a more immersive and participatory event.

Nissan sponsored the event as Innovation partner, an enviable title when billed next to such tech’ heavyweights.
In addition to a stand showcasing their ‘Intelligent Mobility Strategy’ (Nissan’s pledge to build a more sustainable future), Gareth Dunsmore, Director of Electric Vehicles, concluded the first day of the festival with a keynote speech revealing the results of a pan-European study of millennial attitudes toward electric vehicle adoption:

“76 percent of millennials said that an eco-friendly car is the primary action they’d take to make their lives greener”

This was met at the time with great acclamation and has subsequently featured in many of the festival write-ups. It was however the semantics of the above statement that was debated afterwards.
The challenge being that the sentiment alludes to a reliance on advancements in technology to justify a continuation of established behavioural patterns, rather than taking any personal responsibility by discontinuing damaging habits.

Nissan’s study found that the environmental concerns of millennials aren’t smaller scale issues like recycling (24 percent) or overflowing landfills (14 percent) but global issues such as climate change (53 percent) and air pollution (42 percent). To help solve these issues, they are willing to make bold changes such as switching to an energy provider dedicated to eco-friendly solutions (62 percent), or supporting brands that are committed to being more environmentally friendly (53 percent).

This hardly comes as a surprise as no one can really think that individual action such as changing to LED light bulbs, re-using plastic shopping bags, or even adopting zero emission cars will solve the climate change crisis.
But we have lost faith in our governments ability and inclination to tackle the problem at a national policy level. Are millennials the lost political generation? But that’s another conference.

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