Future Fest ’16 – The Highlights

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Over the weekend, I attended Future Fest ’16 at Tobacco Docks. It was a fascinating event, based around the themes of Love, Play, Thrive and Work, dedicated to making speakers and audience members reflect on how different the world, and our place in it, will be in the future.

Here were my highlights:

Dancing drones

Will drones be the future of dancing? I hope not – I can’t imagine Beyonce will let them be her backing dancer. But it was amazing to see the way these drones were controlled in order to perform together in a way that was almost graceful. Watch the video:

Makeup of the future

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Makeup artists from Lily Lolo were in attendance doing ‘makeup of the future’. They predicted that in the future, because of the advances in skincare and improved diets (and, I suggested, oral beauty supplements), we will no longer feel a need to cover their skin with foundation, as it will be naturally flawless.

Instead, makeup would be expressive. For instance, ‘mood eyebrows’: a stripe about one’s eyebrow to reflect mood, which would change according to the shift in your emotions. This would be similar to a mood ring, and I assume heat-sensitive. But we just got a stripe painted over one eyebrow (I opted for purple, to reflect my ‘curious’ mood).

Design your life – Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

How many lives do you have in you, asked this inspiring talk. As a thought experiment, Evans asked us to pick three different career projects:

1) Pick a career that is an improved version of your existing one.

2) If your industry (print journalism, for instance) was to go bust – what would you do then?

3) What you would do if money were no object and no one would laugh at you?

The focus was on opening up our opportunities and exploring them (as you would design prototypes, suggested Burnett, who was for many years employed at Apple). It was truly a highlight of the weekend.

It helped that Burnett and Evans were one of the most charismatic performing duos that I’ve ever encountered. It was hard to work out which one of them was speaking because they, like a charming married couple, finished each other’s sentences. I, and I’m sure many others listening to this talk, came out ready to explore new opportunities.

Designing Your Life: How To Build A Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans is available here.

The future of food – Oliver Peyton, founder of Peyton and Byrne

Peyton tackled the issue of processed food – which he sees as a huge crisis. He quoted a statistic that 60% of food in the US is processed. ‘The Holy Grail of food,’ he said, ‘Is making tasty, reasonably-priced food to replace high-sugar, high-salt processed food from establishments like McDonalds.’

He said that he hoped Brexit would lead to a greater appreciation of British-made produce like apples, which often get discarded at the moment in favour of better-tasting foreign substitutes.

He also touched on the subject of food replacement shakes like Soylent and Huel, which are popular among employees in the tech sphere – remarking that they were an interesting development.

The future of dating – panel chaired by Ghislaine Boddington

This was a discussion of a topic I’m particularly fascinated by: the influence of technology in the dating world.

The panel also discussed the anxiety that many face about virtual reality romance: if it becomes too good, for instance too convincing from a tactile perspective, then will it begin to detract from reality? After all, virtual avatars are much easier to maintain than real people. Furthermore, the sex will most likely be a hell of a lot better.

There was also the intriguing possibility of elitism in these sphere: would those who couldn’t afford the best robot, for instance, be financially cut off from experiencing this new, hyper sensitised erotica?

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But, it isn’t all bad: technology can also enable better connectedness with our real life partners in real time. One example of this is an existing technology called Pillow Talk, a device that you slide into your pillowcase to hear your partner’s heartbeat if you are sleeping away from each other (for instance, in a long distance relationship). It comes with matching heart sensors, providing the extension of your physical heartbeat.

The future of dining out – Dr Morgaine Gaye, food futurologist

Dr Morgaine Gaye is fantastic. Aside from having the coolest job title in the world, she’s an articulate, insightful speaker – and she has a cool Scandi blonde quiff.

‘Choice used to be a good thing, now we’re inundated,’ Dr Gaye said of the future of dining out, ‘Less choice is the right choice for today’s restaurants. Instead, we prefer things like seasonal menus.’ Single concept restaurants like Burger and Lobster are, I suppose, an extension of what Dr Gaye was saying – and I don’t knock the idea. Having said this, I maintain that when it comes to brunch, the more options the better.

‘In future, going to a restaurant will be too much of a schlep – it won’t be about a physical location. The restaurant – even the chef – will come to you instead.’ (UberEats, anyone? Deliveroo?)

Dr Gaye also suggested that dining would become something bespoke, an experience that we curate ourselves in our own homes. Think Jamie Oliver coming to sit at your own kitchen table (if you’re absolutely loaded, that is).

She also dangled the notion of a sandwich vending machine, which dispenses your choice of bread (rye, white, brown etc), fillings, garnish etc. I don’t think any representatives from Subway were in attendance, but if I was them I’d be worried.

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