Natalia Pritchard

The sun gently wakes me up through the smart window of the warm, dry and quiet dwelling I call home. The year is 2070, I’m 77 and am healthier than I was at 23, back when I got burnt out from working too hard in my 45+ hour job and not looking after myself. The era of 40+ hour work weeks is over, instead people spend their time contributing to areas they find fulfilling.  While preventative healthcare through nutrition, an active lifestyle, nanites and a quality living environment means I have not been sick in years.

I roll over in bed to embrace Alex, my partner of 50 years. We get up and start our morning ritual of consuming our personalised breakfasts specific to our current nutritional needs outside in the sun together.  Between mouthfuls we debate how to respond to the latest question raised by SAM, an artificially intelligent politician that looks after the algorithm which governs NZ. As every person in NZ has the opportunity to voice their opinion through SAM we no longer have a government. Instead we run a truly participatory democracy to set the acceptable base parameters for all matters in our country. Parameters which determine all aspects from the amount of our basic income to where we will plant more trees.

Today SAM has asked us how we want to repurpose the last prison in operation in the country. Since moving to a therapeutic justice system, eliminating poverty, making education free, having an abundance mindset and separating the idea of undesirable behavior from the concept of an undesirable person we have slowly been closing down all the prisons. They simply aren’t needed anymore. We have been presented with well researched and modeled options by the incredible people who dedicate their time to public service. My view is to keep the prison as an educational tool to show future generations. Alex prefers the idea of taking a VR scan of the prison for historical purposes and to use the physical building as a laser tag site- they will put this down as another suggestion.

I recycle the limited leftovers from our plates, kiss Alex goodbye and walk towards the community hub. Every step I take creates kinetic energy in the smartpath and is used for power along with our solar roofs. We have an abundance of clean renewable energy making power bills a thing of the past.  I breathe in the clean sweet air as I pass through the food forest picking an apple to have for morning tea.

The sound of laughter and voices increase as I approach the community hub, a smile spreads across my face as my adopted grandchildren come running to greet me. The youngest stumbles a few meters away. I go over to them seeing a nasty graze across their knee. While comforting them I activate my personal AI by tapping my smart bracelet. “Morena Grace, can you please send the first aid kit to my location?” “Sure thing Natalia” within 20 seconds you can hear a faint whirring sound. A drone approaches carrying the first aid kit. I take out the bio spray from it apply a thin layer to my grandchild's leg, the wound seals and looks as good as new.

We walk hand in hand into the community hub, a wonderful multi purpose space where we spend one of our most precious resources, our time. New Zealand is full of these communities, each with a unique algorithm operating overtop the baseline algorithm to reflect the values and expectations of the people in the community. For instance the community I choose to be part of is very tidy and clean, the expectations we have with each other on how communal spaces are treated is clear. I chuckle thinking back to my early twenties when in one flat I ended up keeping my fry pan in my room because me and my flatmates had different acceptable parameters for the length of time taken to wash a kitchen item many people would like to use, personally I have a 4 hour tolerance window, they a 4 day one. These annoyances would not occur now as everyone who lives together has similar acceptable parameters on how they want spaces treated and sound levels they want.   

Entering the hub there is a hive of activity going on, people are playing games together, in a virtual reality or helping set up for lunch. I walk through the main space through to one of the virtual reality rooms. Today I am facilitating a class on the sharing economy, a cornerstone mentality of modern day society. We believe there are enough resources and opportunities for everyone to lead a full life and share what we have creating a positive cycle.

I power up the VR/AR  room to my specifications of an early 2000s landfill, back when our consumerism was running most rampant. People of all ages from the local communities come in and take a seat, which today appears to be on a mound of landfill  made of plastic, clothing, electronics and various other waste. Other people connect to the group through VR holograms. It looks like they are physically here sitting on rubbish too but they are really streaming in from all around the country. We start the discussion centered around consumerism, the throw away society and the move to a sharing economy. Slowly as we talk through the choices we made as a society to give up the old ways in favor of the new the scene changes from a landfill to a lush forest full of trees and native wildlife.

The session draws to a close just as our smart bracelets vibrate, the local AI informing us that lunch is ready in the dining hall. We go out to the communal space and each get our personalised meals, sitting together at beautiful round tables chatting while we eat. I don’t see Alex in the hall today, I smile, having a pretty good idea that they are eating under their favourite tree in the food forest,with their nose in a good book, content as can be. Their food would’ve been dropped off by a drone.

After clearing up lunch, I head off towards Alex’s favourite spot. I could ask Grace to locate Alex for me as we have given each other permission to be locatable to one another but we rarely use that function. If I was to utilise the location function Alex would be notified. I enter the grove of trees and sure enough there they are blanket laid out eating a peach while engrossed in a book. I plop down besides them, we exchange a hug and then read our books side by side.  A few hours pass, the temperature chills a little, it doesn’t bother us as we have body suits on under our light weight clothes that keeps you at an even temperature.

My wrist vibrates, drawing me out of my book, I tap the smart bracelet. Grace’s voice chimes in my ear “Kia ora Natalia, you asked me to remind you that tonight is the festival of light. A pod is leaving in 30 minutes if you want to get ready to go.” “ Thanks Grace” I say. Alex and I pack up from our spot and head towards home.

We get changed into our costumes for tonight's party. I’ve reprogrammed one of my tunics so that it looks like Van Goghs “The Starry Night” with the light of the stars swirling and undulating soft light. I’ve paired the outfit with some jewellery borrowed from a friend and shoes 3D printed to fit my feet perfectly. Once dressed we head off towards the travel pod.

Climbing inside in the pod we greet friends from various neighbourhoods that have already been picked up. There are comfy chairs and tables set up in the pod where we talk, play games and drink cups of tea as the pod drives itself to the nearby neighbourhood where the festival is held. 15 minutes later we arrive a magical scene of light and laughter before us.

The night is spent with good food, drink and company. Around 10pm a few of us call a small pod and head back home. Our smart dwelling noted our return and went into night mode Alex and I programmed. We follow our nightly rituals and drift off to sleep.


Victoria University, Speculative Design

Saint Andrew Matautia DLF by School of Design NZ

In this guest post, students from the School of Design imagine objects for the next three generations.

The 1950’s television series The Twilight Zone was a series focusing on the cross over between humanity’s fear, intelligence and superstition. In the original series, an episode called “The Lonely” focused on a man sent to prison on asteroid for solitary confinement but falls in love with a woman like robot who becomes his companion. In that time, our fears were catalysed through magic or science fiction, but our fears now lie in the unprecedented growth of technology. With our smartphones becoming a deposit of our life, our friend, what will this relationship be in 50 years? Speculative design can help us extrapolate our current beliefs onto to tomorrow’s technology.

During a schooling semester, students were asked to design objects over the next three generations. The overwhelming majority focused on companionship, a friend from birth till death. With our fears and superstitions turned up to a deafening volume we can speculatively assess what future designers of technology companionship should consider. The works present students’ different fears and excitements over the future of technological friendship, consulting complex realm of ethics, reality and logic. Some are optimistic, some are not but upon meta-analysis of all the students' views it becomes apparent that the future of technological companionship is under negotiation.

Project Team:
Ross Stevens, Simon Fraser and Samuel Munneke with Nichole Hone, Evangeline Martin, Loek Ties Hendriks

Loek Tie Hendrix, Postcards from Mars, 2016

Loek Tie Hendrix, Postcards from Mars, 2016

Published with permission from Victoria University. The original article can be found here.

Ben Hayman

Ben Hayman has extensive experience in the field of open and progressive government services, including the UK's Government Digital Service. Experienced in the fields of open source, Agile and digital service delivery, he now works for tech-delivery consultancy Assurity in Wellington. 

"Most days of the week play out this way. A steady mix of bit of income earning efforts, interest or volunteer activities with healthy doses of dog walking and family time to boot. We’ve just got back from one of our regular weeks away with the kids. We manage to do that every month or two for a week or so at a time. Its great that so much of their learning as young adults is done out side of the digital-academy in the wider world. There are so many places we all love to travel to both here and around the globe and the kids mentorship profiles jump up a level or two each time we do it.

Walter’s doing well. 25 fantastic Collie years on planet earth. He struggles quite a bit with his joints. Still as everyone tells me - he’s had a great life. I remember my grandparents talking about their dogs and how 15 years was a really good innings. It’s not lost on me that we are so damned lucky that even our pets get targeted medical treatments just the same as we humans. Global diagnosis and personalised treatment has got so smart and so easy to access for everyone.

Today like most days I need to have a presence in about 4 places at once. First though I’ll check the shopping alert I had on some walking boots I’m looking for. Two retailers say they can help me and will pay to access my consumer profile to create a great match and offer. My personal AI says one of the retailers is looking risky but the other great. The good one having reported really solid impact from their new staff policy. Their staff say they are happier and the organisation has certainly increased its investment in community partnerships in its local community. They seem like a brand I’d be happy being supplied by.

One of my 4 meetings today is our extended families health net. We are comparing the data collected by our personal health chips and getting the DNA data from our family tree visualised. We want to see if there’s anything that would be of interest to my niece who is expecting a new baby as the insight from this stuff just keeps getting exponentially better and better. I’m going to attend that meeting 100% in person as its at my sisters place around the corner and I am tired of just linking up digitally when we are so close.  

One of the other meetings is a funding review for my latest Community involvement to build a bio-dome and rare plant regeneration scheme in the Wairarapa I should be there via a tele-presence robot as we will be walking around the facility and hearing what the Gardeners and Technical boffins have to say about the rarer plants and new bio-dome build. I’m working on the construction of the cafe at the dome centre so there’s income from this for me but I’m also contributing some time for free to the whole scheme because it matters.

The other two meetings I’m attending are pretty operational work related sessions and I’ll send my AI to those as they don’t require physical presence. I’m really happy that I’ve got my AI up to a high level of trust with me now. Meetings where it’s safely within my knowledge area or where I believe the rest of the participants have a high level of background have proven safe places to trust my AI and give it a bit of a long leash. It’s also fantastic that we now have legislation in place that allows people to do this and at the same time have effective and practical post moderation rights if we feel strongly that the outcome from the AI does not represent them authentically.         

There’s a big local issue that’s on my mind a lot at the moment as our coastal area faces a new challenge on our sea defences. The old defences from 2030 need upgrading and doing that has got significant environmental impacts. Our Local Sustainability Community needs to collaborate in making some public investment choices with communities further up the coast and involve a group of commercial firms who are involved in the build work. As local citizens we need to collaborate and arrive at a decision on next steps but its really complex stuff this and I feel way out of my depth (No pun intended) So I’ve decided to trust a women with a great reputation called Sam Brookes as she’s got a background in local regeneration projects and coastal defences over in Canada. I’ve seen reviews of her work and the impact others have said she’s created. She’s better placed than me (or anyone I know of nationally) to make those kinds of calls so I’ve passed my Trust Badge to her to represent me on this topic. It looks like over 5000 other NZers have also trusted her on similar topics this month that had a high positive rating on our governments outcomes dashboard which is reassuring.

When I get asked by folk from around the world about living here I’m always super happy to be able to say I’m proud to live in this country in 2070 - and of the innovations we’ve trialled and then shared with the world. It’s brilliant that we have a national commitment to being custodians both of the land and of our physical and digital communities. Everyone has a duty of care for both the physical and digital environment as one integrated whole. We know it’s ours to care for and that it forms a constantly learning and adaptive nation. A nation that supports communities focussed on making our world better. People genuinely seem to be confidently shaping, co-designing and creating their futures here. We are in great shape to actively create the 22nd century right here."

Pia Andrews

DIA's Pia Andrews is known for her open government work on both sides of the Tasman Sea, and beyond. She's an advocate for citizens using government data, and has furthered this work through events such as GovHack and GovCamp. 

Photo credit: Angie Garrett CC BY 2.0

Photo credit: Angie Garrett CC BY 2.0

Technology is both an enabler and a disruptor in our lives. It has ushered in an age of surplus, with decentralised systems enabled by highly empowered global citizens, all creating increasing complexity. It is imperative that we transition into a more open, collaborative, resilient and digitally enabled society that can respond exponentially to exponential change whilst empowering all our people to thrive. We have the means now by which to overcome our greatest challenges including poverty, hunger, inequity and shifting job markets but we must be bold in collectively designing a better future, otherwise we may unintentionally reinvent past paradigms and inequities with shiny new things.

Technology is only as useful as it affects actual people, so my vision starts, perhaps surprisingly for some, with people. After all, if people suffer, the system suffers, so the well being of people is the first and foremost priority for any sustainable vision. But we also need to look at what all sectors and communities across society need and what part they can play:

  • People: I dream of a future where the uniqueness of local communities, cultures and individuals is amplified, where diversity is embraced as a strength, and where all people are empowered with the skills, capacity and confidence to thrive locally and internationally. A future where everyone shares in the benefits and opportunities of a modern, digital and surplus society/economy with resilience, and where everyone can meaningfully contribute to the future of work, local communities and the national/global good.
  • Public sectors: I dream of strong, independent, bold and highly accountable public sectors that lead, inform, collaborate, engage meaningfully and are effective enablers for society and the economy. A future where we invest as much time and effort on transformational digital public infrastructure and skills as we do on other public infrastructure like roads, health and traditional education, so that we can all build on top of government as a platform. Where everyone can have confidence in government as a stabilising force of integrity that provides a minimum quality of life upon which everyone can thrive.
  • The media: I dream of a highly effective fourth estate which is motivated systemically with resilient business models that incentivise behaviours to both serve the public and hold power to account, especially as “news” is also arguably becoming exponential. Actionable accountability that doesn’t rely on the linearity and personal incentives of individuals to respond will be critical with the changing pace of news and with more decisions being made by machines.
  • Private, academic and non-profit sectors: I dream of a future where all sectors can more freely innovate, share, adapt and succeed whilst contributing meaningfully to the public good and being accountable to the communities affected by decisions and actions. I also see a role for academic institutions in particular, given their systemic motivation for high veracity outcomes without being attached to one side, as playing a role in how national/government actions are measured, planned, tested and monitored over time.
  • Finally, I dream of a world where countries are not celebrated for being just “digital nations” but rather are engaged in a race to the top in using technology to improve the lives of all people and to establish truly collaborative democracies where people can meaningfully participate in the shaping the optimistic and inclusive futures.

Technology is a means, not an ends, so we need to use technology to both proactively invent the future we need (thank you Alan Kay) and to be resilient to change including emerging tech and trends.

Let me share a few specific optimistic predictions for 2070:

  • Automation will help us redesign our work expectations. We will have a 10-20 hour work week supported by machines, freeing up time for family, education, civic duties and innovation. People will have less pressure to simply survive and will have more capacity to thrive (this is a common theme, but something I see as critical).
  • 3D printing of synthetic foods and nanotechnology to deconstruct and reconstruct molecular materials will address hunger, access to medicine, clothes and goods, and community hubs (like libraries) will become even more important as distribution, education and social hubs, with drones and other aerial travel employed for those who can’t travel. Exoskeletons will replace scooters 
  • With rocket travel normalised, and only an hour to get anywhere on the planet, nations will see competitive citizenships where countries focus on the best quality of life to attract and retain people, rather than largely just trying to attract and retain companies as we do today. We will also likely see the emergence of more powerful transnational communities that have nationhood status to represent the aspects of people’s lives that are not geopolitically bound.
  • The public service has highly professional, empathetic and accountable multi-disciplinary experts on responsive collaborative policy, digital legislation, societal modeling, identifying necessary public digital infrastructure for investment, and well controlled but openly available data, rules and transactional functions of government to enable dynamic and third party services across myriad channels, provided to people based on their needs but under their control. We will also have a large number of citizens working 1 or 2 days a week in paid civic duties on areas where they have passion, skills or experience to contribute.
  • The paralympics will become the main game, as it were, with no limits on human augmentation. We will do the 100m sprint with rockets, judo with cyborgs, rock climbing with tentacles. We have access to medical capabilities to address any form of disease or discomfort but we don’t use the technologies to just comply to a normative view of a human. People are free to choose their form and we culturally value diversity and experimentation as critical attributes of a modern adaptable community.

I’ve only been living in New Zealand a short time but I’ve been delighted and inspired by what I’ve learned from kiwi and Māori cultures, so I’d like to share a locally inspired analogy.

Technology is on one hand, just a waka (canoe), a vehicle for change. We all have a part to play in the journey and in deciding where we want to go. On the other hand, technology is also the winds, the storms, the thunder, and we have to continually work to understand and respond to emerging technologies and trends so we stay safely on course. It will take collaboration and working towards common goals if we are to chart a better future for all.

Originally published here