World House Interdesign 2007: Day 1

25Jun07


So the first day started pretty slow. I met with my fellow participants in advance to discuss life and stuff over coffee. We then proceeded to register at the Institute without Boundaries. They have a great facility, which has a very creative and inspiring vibe. Once we received our welcome package (including my first official name badge) we went to the park and just lay down for the rest of the afternoon. As Eloise pointed out, this felt like the calm before the storm.

In the early evening we walked over to the Berkeley Church where the IwB had set up their model World House. It was a very impressive display that represented a first stab at what could be involved in their final designs. The evening was anchored by the keynote lecture by Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon from the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, entitled Resilient Design.

This was ironically the most depressing and inspiring lecture I have ever heard. Based on my concept of happiness, I guess this may make me a defensive pessimist. I guess this is a reflection of my problem solving perspective, but hearing issues and problems really inspires me and gives me hope for the future.

Dr. Homer-Dixon’s talk began outlining the trends in 21st century issues and described their changing state. He stressed the need to understand that the future will be volatile and we need to prepare for this volatility with what he calls resilience.

He later outlined the 3 essentials issues facing the world today and boldly stated that if these are not considered the resulting design is a failure. They are as follows…

  • Population growth and economic inequality – Migration of masses from poor countries to rich countries
  • Energy Shortage – Near peak global output of conventional oil
  • Climate change – Non-linear progression, more frequent extremes and interaction with other issues.

The boldness of this was something that really hit home and made me really think about my design practices in the past and where my skills will be applied in the future.

He closed by answering a very simple yet very complex question:

In this new world, what should we do?

What struck me about the sentence was the three words italicized that had a greater meaning. “New” struck me because it clearly acknowledged that the world isn’t the same and we need to absorb this. Next, “we” acknowledged the plural. It isn’t you or me who is responsible but the collective, whether that is two people or two million it remains a group. Finally, “do” makes it clear that actions is required we can no longer talk about our future we must create it.

His answer to this question was three fold.

  1. Recognize complexity of problems and acknowledge this in solutions
  2. Use decentralized experimentation
  3. Increase system resilience

Overall it was an inspiring day that set a good tone for the rest of the event. I look forward to Day 2.

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