1a. Us and Them: Design at the Border*

At a certain point in humanity’s evolution, the environment changed at a very slow pace. Different generations had lived more or less identical lives. However, we currently inhabit a world of far-reaching technological expansion where borders have become increasingly blurred leading to a gradual scattering of social groups. Our sense of identity, whether it be nationality, currency or language have been increasingly dematerialised and disrupted by this process. A consideration into these various social, political and economic borders, their presence and their implications, is pivotal in understanding the methods and means of futurology.

Yet within the confines of a fear economy, the ‘in-group, out-group psychology’ is rooted within our evolutionary past (Ivanova 2014). What previously stood as an adaptive cognitive process that assisted our decision-making and rapid evaluation is now viewed as a collective shortcoming surrounding stereotyping, discrimination and antagonism. Basking in present-day riches, Gilliland asserts that we are operating on ‘outdated software,’ using primitive brains within a technologically sophisticated society (Gilliland 2015). Instead, the objective should be to transcend beyond the limitations of herd mentality in order to become acquainted with the global community. Hence it is no longer ‘us and them,’ but rather just all of us.

In lieu of collective evolution, information technology has stepped into the forefront as the key contributor in the rapid externalisation of the border (Wilson & Weber 2008). In a time when consumers have become increasingly suspicious of online tracking, Rudder makes a compelling argument in Dataclysm that the information gained from vestiges of an individual’s digital data is possibly as valuable as it is malignant, and as enlightening as it may be unnerving. For instance, a poll in a survey by the matchmaking website OkCupid showed that although 94% of users stated that racism was a relationship deal-breaker, the statistics show that white users were in comparison more inclined to date within their own race.

Source: OkCupid (Rudder 2009)

Rather, in directing our efforts into our own conscious evolution to overcome these inadequacies, we are able to strategically design an environment capable of tolerating this exponential pace of change. The Venus Project is an organisation that proposes the idea of new world governance based on the utopian realisation of a collective resource-based economy. Advocating for a ‘peaceful and sustainable global civilsation,’ the organisation presents an alternative vision for humanity directed by our shared technology and resources towards a full redesign of our cultural narratives.

Source: The Venus Project (Fresco)

As science fiction provides a foundation for visualising and reflecting on the prospects of the future, it suggests a holistic, adaptable, and varied awareness conveyed through a narrative and designed practice (Lomardo 2014). We look to sympathise with characters that are just like us, inherently flawed. Caesar in the Planet of the Apes, Game of Throne’s Tyrion Lannister and Blade Runner’s Roy Batty, in their humanity, their endeavours give them existential quality, asking us what it means to exist. However, this digital age of emancipatory storytelling confronts the challenge of envisioning a future of hope for the conscious mind within today’s dark pessimism and malaise (Kasunic 2015).

villiansLeft: Caesar (Fox), Tyrion Lannister (HBO) & Roy Batty (WarnerBros)

As design is sanctioned as the designing of things in action, we begin to notice that in many ways ‘we rule by technology’s grace, and in other ways it rules by ours’ (Fry 1999). In redirecting the conversation, we should liken technology to an environment where the concept of scarcity is contextual, reminding us of Diamandis’ infinite life of possibilities within an age of abundance.

*with reference to Big Data


Diamandis, P., 2014, ‘Dissolving national borders,’ Medium, 29 December, viewed 15 October 2015, < https://medium.com/abundance-insights/dissolving-national-borders-e05771acdbd9#.7x6581nvt>.

Fry, T., 1999, A new design philosophy: an introduction to defuturing, UNSW Press, Sydney.

FTP013: The Future of Conscious Evolution: Eliminating Discrimination 2015, podcast, Future Thinkers Podcast, 10 January, viewed 15 October 2015, < http://futurethinkers.org/can-we-eliminate-discrimination/&gt;.

Gilliland, M., ‘Rehabilitating our inner villain,’ Medium, 9 September, viewed 15 October 2015, < https://medium.com/@MikeGilliland/rehabilitating-your-inner-villain-4a9e220318f2#.50gw3qqx3&gt;.

Kasunic, J., 2015, ‘Data, data, everywhere!,’ UTS Subject 85502, Lecture, UTS, Sydney, viewed 21 August 2015.

Kiem, M., 2015, ‘Design at the border: the border risk identification system in context,’ UTS Subject 85502, Lecture, UTS, Sydney, viewed 4 September 2015.

Lomardo, T., 2014, ‘The future evolution of consciousness,’ World Future Review, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 1-2.

Peter Diamandis: abundance is our future, 2012, video, TED, California.

Rudder, C., 2014, Dataclysm: who we are (when we think no one’s looking), 9 September, Crown Publishing Group, New York, NY

Talks at Google, 2014, Christian Rudder: “Dataclysm” | Talks at Google, video recording, Youtube, viewed 15 October 2015, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YX1gTVa1N78>.

The Venus Project, n.d., The venus project, viewed 15 October 2015, < https://www.thevenusproject.com/en/>.

Wilson, D. & Weber, L., 2008, ‘Surveillance, risk and preemption on the Australian border,’ Surveillance & Society (Smart Borders and Mobilities: Spaces, zones and enclosures), vol. 5, no.2, pp. 124-141.

Related Readings

Ashmore, R. D., Jussim, L. & Wilder, D., 2001, Social identity, intergroup conflict, and conflict reduction, Oxford University Press, London.

Bailey, S., 2014, ‘Can you overcome inbuilt bias?,’ Forbes, 14 August, viewed 15 October 2015, < http://www.forbes.com/sites/sebastianbailey/2014/08/14/can-you-overcome-inbuilt-bias/>.

Ehrich, P. R. & Ornstein, R. E., 1989, New world new mind: moving towards conscious evolution, ISKH, Cambridge, MA.

Hardy, J., 2011, ‘Read all about it: why we have an appetite for gossip,’ New Scientist, is. 2822, viewed 15 October 2015, < https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21128225.700-read-all-about-it-why-we-have-an-appetite-for-gossip#.VK_-diuUeSo>.

Mishkin, S., 2014, ‘Dataclysm: who we are (when we think no one’s looking), by Christian Rudder,’ ft, 3 October, viewed 15 October 2015, < http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/73a9c8d4-48ad-11e4-ad19-00144feab7de.html>.

NehemiYAH Ben Israel, 2013, Brown eyes and blue eyes Racism experiment (Children Session) – Jane Elliott, video recording, Youtube, viewed 15 October 2015, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRnRIC9JQTQ&gt;.


One comment

  1. What stood out to me was The Venus Project! I hadn’t heard of it before, but I love what the organisation stands for. It’s really refreshing to see people design or speculate about more utopian future outcomes rather than pessimistic ones. A lot to think about.


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