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Nik Hafermaas on the Betterverse

Nov 17, 2021 - 04:00pm

Overview

Nik Hafermaas: This is actually not really a lecture, it’s more a start of a dialogue. It’s about an idea I’ve been carrying around with me for many, many years now. And this idea is about the world of unrealized ideas that exist in every creator’s bottom draws. There are these ideas that we’re excited […]

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Nik Hafermaas:

This is actually not really a lecture, it's more a start of a dialogue. It's about an idea I've been carrying around with me for many, many years now. And this idea is about the world of unrealized ideas that exist in every creator's bottom draws. There are these ideas that we're excited about. And if we're in a professional setting we pitched it to the client, and they unfortunately settled for the second best, for third best, or fourth best solution. And this is something that happens to architects, that happens to designers, to artists, musicians, scientists, engineers.

Nik Hafermaas:

Everyone who creates something is not always able to bring forth the boldest, the most innovative ideas. And that happened throughout history. And as a result, unfortunately, yep, that's bad news. We have to live in a world of compromise. What would world look like? What would our life look like if we liberated these ideas?

Nik Hafermaas:

As a species you could say, our inventiveness is boundless. But why is our world not more advanced than it is? And why are we not living in the best possible world? Why is this an important question to me? I think it started very, very early as a little kid in the 1970s. The little guy on the left here on the carousel, that's me. That's my dad here in the middle. I grew up in a relatively nondescript German town called Kassel, nothing very exciting. Except for, every five years there was the biggest contemporary art festival. It still goes on. Every five years the whole city transformed for 100 days into what, as a little child of seven years, looked like the future to me.

Nik Hafermaas:

All these crazy artists and installation artists, [foreign language 00:02:11], architects, they all flocked to that city. And all of a sudden the future happened. And this was the 1970s version of the future. People were experimenting with inflatables, with alternative habitats.They took psychedelic drugs and did all kinds of crazy stuff. And it just looked like the future to me. And this is the future that I wanted to live in, and I became obsessed with the idea of future. And this child-like fascination, maybe you can relate to that as well when you think back to the age of maybe 10 or so. Things were bigger than life because we were smaller than life. And things were just this feeling of absolute fascination is something that drives all my creative work. Whether it's exhibitions, design, media and art installations, or what I call media [techtur 00:03:08].

Nik Hafermaas:

And sometimes I manage for a glimpse to create this childlike fascination in my audience again, but sometimes it doesn't work so well. There's not a surefire recipe to accomplish that. So this thing about fascination, this thing about these old ideas, I try to illustrate with 10 super short stories that I'm going to share with you tonight, that I put together here. And I think, or I'm sure, and certainly all creators that you can come up with your own experiences and stories of ideas that you wished would've come true. So let's dive right in here. And I also try to unpack a little bit about why some of these ideas might not have flown at this point in time when they were conceived and presented. So let's go back in history.

Nik Hafermaas:

Many ideas actually are far ahead of the mindset of their time. The time the people who have the say were just not ready for them. And I'm staying here close to my hometown in Berlin. There was an architectural exhibition in 1921, and a young totally unknown guy, an architect called [inaudible 00:04:32], he had a competition entry of a glass tower on this triangular shape. And it was so foreign to the contemporaries that he got kicked out of this competition in the first round. No questions asked. They just said, okay, this is outlandish. It was the first full glass architecture, and it was just dismissed right away. And half a century later it actually became the template for modern class skyscrapers.

Nik Hafermaas:

Another thing is, we often hear about progress, and sometimes progress is just regress. And that's kind of a sad story. Things that were more advanced and ahead of their time didn't stay that way. And as Hank mentioned, I lived in Los Angeles for about 14 years to work at art center. And I found out that in this traffic choked crazy car city, it actually, in 1925, it had the world's largest, most sophisticated public transit system. So until the 1960s, when all of these street cars, all of the public transportation that was on rails was demolished, dismantled. Coinciding with the building up of the freeway system for motorcars. Some people speak of the great American streetcar scandal. And if you imagine what it would take now, nowadays in the 21st century, to rebuild a city of a size of Los Angeles back with trolleys, which are now acknowledged as one of the best and most sustainable modes of transportation in urban emphasis. So, no progress, regress.

Nik Hafermaas:

The next example, the next short story is about the idea, the vision of solving large cargo transport around the world in a sustainable way. And outside of Berlin, about 80 kilometers away from Berlin, there was a company that was started in 1999 called CargoLifter. And CargoLifter was a couple ambitious entrepreneurs who wanted to revolutionize air cargo with a gigantic airship. And here you can see it in comparison to a jumbo jet. So a jumbo jet is about 71 meters long. If you are not metric, then this is about 100, and I would say almost 200 feet. And this CargoLifter airship is 260 meters long. So just calculate that by two and a half, almost three, then you know how long it is in feet.

Nik Hafermaas:

So this ginormous cargo ship would've had the opportunity to lift, have a payload lift three... What was it? 320,000 pounds in one piece, and 80 meters long. So a gigantic piece of cargo could have been lifted with very little energy expense throughout the world. Well, and to build such a blimp you first have to build a hangar. You have to build a garage basically. And this became the world's largest freestanding hangar outside here of Berlin [inaudible 00:08:11]. And when it was ready, the hangar, I had the pleasure actually to design the opening ceremony. And my idea was to play on the scale of this enormous airship. And we built in the volume, as you can see down here on the left-hand side, that that is the payload. And then the dimensions of the actual airship, I depicted, because we have very little money, with actually these of fabric banners. And these fabric banners came out off little rucksacks from people. So there were people at a certain point in the show who [upsided 00:08:49] themselves, each trailing one of these fabric banners here.

Nik Hafermaas:

And if you look very closely on the screen, you can see these tiny little people there that actually make up this big airship. And since I couldn't get any actors to do this, I actually used the construction workers of this hangar to actually do this performance here. So ironically, the opening was in 2001, and six months later CargoLifter unfortunately went bankrupt. And this big idea of this air cargo was put to sleep. And so this amazing hangar, the biggest freestanding hall in the world, was turned into a water park that is now called Tropical Islands. Which is kind of an ironic inversion of the vision of connecting the world, because it's inverted, and it's like a beach themed Truman show now. So this is where this big vision and idea has landed.

Nik Hafermaas:

The next short story is what happens when very ambitious plans have to rely on too many parties and stakeholders. Then they're very prone to fail. And this example is... Go. Is about a company, an organization actually, called Desert Tech. And this organization was founded on a very striking insight, because they found out that within six hours deserts of the world received more energy from the sun that humankind consumes within one year. So think about that, six hours, one year, all the energy in the world is right there. If you look at the map on the right-hand side, you see the Sahara, you see North Africa, you see parts of Europe. And the plan was to actually plant huge sun collectors and wind parks at the coasts around the Sahara, and then take all this energy and distribute it both in North Africa and also in Europe.

Nik Hafermaas:

And this started out, it was an initiative that started in 2009. It crashed in 2015, just because the consortium of the energy providers, they fell apart. They all have different financial interests. And that the political self-interests of the involved countries took over. And boom, this grand plan that would've solved a huge energy problem that was becoming more pressing every day, as we all know from the news, would've been solved. But it fell through.

Nik Hafermaas:

In my next little story I talk about incrementalism. And the idea behind that is that even when great designs make it from vision into production, they often get compromised on the way. So incrementalism you could call that, the slow and the gruesome death of ambition. And a very striking example, at least for me, because I'm still an automotive fan. I have gasoline in my blood. Is actually automotive design and cars. And so this is, for example, a car, a concept that was very future forward. It was the minivan reinvented, as you can see. Got wing doors, super aerodynamic, super chic. It came from a company called Pontiac, which you might be familiar with. And this was the transport concept car 1986. And actually it made it into production, but it looked like this.

Nik Hafermaas:

So if you can see the before and the after, yes, they got the color scheme right, but everything else they got wrong. And why has this happened? In the realization process there are safety regulations, there's engineering shortcuts, there's the so-called value engineering. How can I make stuff cheaper and charge more for it? And all of that has thwarted many future forward creations, actually beyond recognition. And therefore, it has throttled and slowed down overall progress. So cars could be much more advanced than they actually are these days. And if you think that stopped somewhere with the goofy cars of the 1990s, unfortunately that's not true, that carries through to today. Even Mercedes Benz, which now rolls out their luxury electric sedans with the EQS concept from 2019, the car that now is going into production looks like that.

PART 1 OF 4 ENDS [00:14:04]

Nik Hafermaas:

The car that now is going into production looks like that. And they must have said, you know what, as long as we keep the two tone color scheme, maybe no one will really notice how fucked up the car is. But it speaks for itself. And it is prime I'm example of great ideas just going horribly wrong.

Nik Hafermaas:

The next little story here I call hype cycle. Hype cycle is something that is often associated with disruptive technology, disruptive inventions. Sometimes disruptive ideas start off with a great vision and ambition. And before they actually then get reigned in by the so-called reality, I would say. And this is an example that we actually did at Graft Brand Lab here. So we had the great pleasure to work on a super forward looking project about urban air mobility. So that means passenger drones that can vertically start and land, and are electric driven, and are the future of urban transportation. So this vehicle actually needs some kind of a hub. It needs like a hub where it can start and land. And with that, it needs a lot of design because this urban air mobility is a symbol of future for technology. And what we try to do is to create, through design, as much trust possible in this kind of new technology.

Nik Hafermaas:

So before I sit down in kind of a wobbly electrically driven little vehicle that's going to fly through an urban, densely populated area. I have to establish a trusting relationship. And this is what got into the design of that. That was our main driving factor. And also to capture the fascination of it. And this proposal that you just saw won basically every award in the book last year, because it really is triggered by our fascination with the future and disruptive technology.

Nik Hafermaas:

So now, from our prototype that we built in Singapore, and showed in 2019, we're developing this idea further, or the client has this idea being developed further. And I'm not allowed to show you anything. But if you look beyond these pixels here, you can see that out of our organically flamboyant future forward architecture, something that more resembles some containers, shipping containers, are evolving out of it. And that's a very sad story because neither will this create a lot of trust with the clients, nor will it really capture the fascination that this future forward mobility has.

Nik Hafermaas:

So this is kind of a thing that's common to many disruptive technologies. And there is an organization, The Gartner Institute, they have created the so-called Gartner height cycle. And that is a graph that captures the pathway of disruptive technologies through their different phases. And if you look at this graph here, you see that in the beginning, there's an innovation trigger. And the expectations, they go really, really, really high to a peak. And where I put the red arrow, this is where the flying autonomous vehicles are right now. And then there is a peak of inflated expectations.

Nik Hafermaas:

And then there is a trough of disillusion. Oh, this technology is much harder to implement than we thought. For example, autonomous driving is right now in this valley of disillusion. And people get really frustrated, why the hell is it not started yet? And then slowly, if these ideas don't die, then there is a slope of enlightenment, and then the plateau of productivity. And if you look at this, you see that it is about 10 years away, that the flying autonomous vehicles then go from this prototype and this vision, and this expectation, to something that we can actually use and have in our world. So this is a good explanation why certain things go from a hype to a bust.

Nik Hafermaas:

The next little story here is about how commercial interests sometimes get into the way of the greatest ideas. And for this little story, I turn to a former student of mine. His name is Dan Goods, and he has one of the coolest jobs in the world, I think, for a creative, because he works at NASA JPL. So he works with rocket scientists. And he started out as their artist in residence to come up, through his art, through his creativity, with solutions that explain to the general public what these crazy rocket scientists are actually doing. So he uses art to translate the immensity of the universe and the complexity of space missions into relatable experiences. So now he calls himself a visual strategist, and he has a team of about half a dozen designers and architects and artists. And all they do all day long is to come up with ideas how to translate all the amazing rocket science stuff that NASA does.

Nik Hafermaas:

And his example that he shared with me, I said, "Well, give me your best idea that didn't go anywhere," is this one here. And this is a project he did around the Juno mission. So NASA is sending a probe of a satellite called Juno to orbit Jupiter for 33 times to take certain photos and whatever they do up in space, and then to fall into this planet. 33 and a third times, it's also the speed of a record. I know you might be too young for that. But like a vinyl record had 33 and a third time rotations as a speed.

Nik Hafermaas:

And the main scientists behind this mission here, the Juno mission, loved music. And so Dan and his team came up with the idea to find 33 artists, music artists, to each create a new track and beam that track to the space craft at Jupiter with each rotation, with each orbit. One of these tracks, send them there. The planet would affect the music, and then it would be beamed back and then released on earth here, one track after the other. And this idea was so outlandish, but also so realistic that he had like the biggest acts in music right now, in pop music, to sign up. It's a who is who of popular music. And everyone was seen and said, okay, I'm going to compose and perform the track just for this Jupiter mission. And I'm going to do this free of charge.

Nik Hafermaas:

And there was also, one of the biggest music distributors who was going to make it happen. However, the catch was that the music had to be free since it was NASA. And NASA is a government agency, and they can't charge the public. So the musicians were okay with it, but the distributor was not. And because of that, NASA said it would not advertise the music on the project. And Dan's project, after six years of work, just fell through. So great idea, and it just died by the need for commercialism here.

Nik Hafermaas:

But there's also hope. There are ideas that are not only ahead of their time, but the time is actually catching up in a good way, or it's changing the time to really make the likelihood that these ideas come through much higher. And for example, this, that I'm showing here, now coincides with our hyped awareness to come up with solutions against climate change. And this is from Graft Architects. And they designed these buildings in 2007. And it was a first prize by the design competition. And they called this building Bird Island, and those are zero energy villas in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. And the special thing about it is that all the energy saving requirements were actually translated into very poetic design solutions that are not only environmentally friendly and efficient, but also offer a new interpretation of the spaces we live in. And now it is really high time to establish the sustainable design language that marries technology with aesthetics. And this was a great expression of that. And the time is now getting ready for these ideas to really come through and become more commonplace.

Nik Hafermaas:

My second to last story, I call it almost there. There's also sometimes ideas that slowly scale up. And this is another project that I did a while ago. And it started out with a Kindle reader, you might be familiar with. This has a so-called e-paper display. And this is not like your computer screen that sends out light. This is actually a display that just reflects light. So it changes color like a chameleon and you read it like ink on paper. And that has a lot of advantages because it's easy on the eye and it has extremely low energy consumption.

Nik Hafermaas:

And the company that actually produces these screens, the technology is called E Ink. And somehow, they saw some of my public artworks. And they called me up and said, "Well, you're an artist. You work with these weird materials. And we have our material. And we can print it out now a mile long in one endless coil, our e-paper, but we don't know what to do with it." And I said, "Well, maybe I can help you. And I devised a media facade here at the San Diego International airport that is 1600 feet long. And it is covered with this e-paper, and can change, and can be programmed to change its patterns and its motion here. And they said, "You can do anything you want with this facade, but you cannot drill any holes into the facade because it's a new building. We don't want you to do that. So if you can't drill any holes, you can't send any conduit. And if you can't send any conduit, you can't send any electricity to these tiles.

Nik Hafermaas:

So each of these tiles had to be self-sufficient. And each of these tiles has a little photovoltaic strip that collects just enough energy for this to be functional. It has a little battery and a little receiver. And it's all laminated like a fast food menu card in this clear plastic. So it is weatherised. Then you have a sticker that is actually a sticker that can change color by remote control. And this idea is realized there. And it works. And now the next step for this to scale it up is actually to find building, to find an architect, to find someone who finances a facade that's not stuck on the building, but that becomes the building. So the building itself and the media become one seamless thing. And this is my vision that I really want to put through. This can happen in an urban environment because it is zero like pollution, which is a problem in urban environments. And it's completely zero energy, self-sufficient. And the technology is there. So it's an idea just waiting to come through. And I won't stop until I have built this damn thing.

Nik Hafermaas:

So my very last short story for you tonight is, I called it lucky us. Because, thankfully, some ambitious projects did not get realized. And maybe you can come up with some of these ideas, of examples where it's like, oh, good thing we didn't do it. But the example that came to me is also connected to my own town, Berlin. You heard about the Nazis. You heard about Adolf Hitler, who took over Germany in 1930s. And then he started a war in 1942. And he was completely off the rocker. And he wanted to dominate the world, and wanted to turn Berlin into Germania, the city that becomes the capital of the world. So absolutely crazy and dangerous. And his main architect, Albert Speer, he redesigned Berlin. And he created outrageous architecture here. This is the [foreign language 00:27:55], which is like much bigger than the [inaudible 00:27:57], the thing I showed you before. And this was going to host hundreds of thousands of-

PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [00:28:04]

Nik Hafermaas:

And this was going to house hundreds of thousands of people. And it was just a demonstration of power in the most horrific way. If maybe some of you have heard the TV show, 'The Man In The High Castle,' it's like an alternate reality show. What would have happened to the world? If the Nazis have won the war, that's the premise of it. And then the show also turns to Berlin, which was now called Gamana. And this little building down here is actually the main building in Berlin, which is now dwarfed by the [foreign language 00:28:46]. And fortunately, this did not happen. So that means that the Reichstag, which this building is called, which is like the symbolic seat of the German parliament then was wrapped as one of his art pieces in 1995. And it became really a social space for the reunited Germany.

Nik Hafermaas:

So this horrific Nazi vision didn't come through and the opposite happened through an art intervention that brought people together and reminded everyone of their humanity and celebrate the reunification of Germany. So my conclusion after these 10 little stories here is, I want to ask the people and I started tonight with you guys, and I'm going to talk to many other people there, really, to find opportunities, to bring more joy into the world, to take your hand off the hand break, say no to incrementalism, fight for your visions and share your ideas and help me figure out what are your boldest ideas.

Nik Hafermaas:

What did you hear from ideas that you have yourself or ideas you heard of that you think are in the bottom drawer and need to be liberated? So my vision is to actually create something like a better verse experience, which could be an experience in a sense of an exhibition that actually shows the true ingenuity that exists on our planet. So what are you bottom draw projects, and help me to put this thing together. I really want to do that project.

Nik Hafermaas:

And I'm done. Thank you.

Speaker 1:

So now's a great time to ask some questions and bring some provocation actually to the table from your own viewpoint. Everybody here, the young people that you are, your future is ahead of you to do something like what Nik is talking about, to find the opportunities in this world that can bring joy to the world. So what would that look like to you and what questions might you want pose? And now's a great opportunity while Nik is...

Speaker 2:

Feel free to just unmute your mic guys and ask, or if you don't want do that, I can ask them for you. Just drop your questions in the chat.

Speaker 3:

How do you find the right audience for your ideas? Sometimes when you've come up with something really strange, it's hard to know, would someone be interested in this because there might not be an industry full it?

Nik Hafermaas:

Well, I think this has gotten much easier because your tools to showcase things have gotten so much more sophisticated. I mean, you can post stuff on social media, on Intel or somewhere else on LinkedIn or whatever. It's a portal and get them out there. It is from my experience, the time of the lone genius is kind of over. It is right now. Things have gotten so complex, our creative opportunities and design challenges that it works much better in teams of like minded people. Find them, collaborate with them. You can collaborate through different time zones. You can collaborate through different languages, try to get some people around your idea, rally them around the idea. I always, as a creative, I like to work with people that I know are smarter than I am, because that's the most exciting stuff. So find those people bring them together and find your outlet for it.

Speaker 3:

Thank you.

Speaker 2:

Hey, there is a question in the chats, which says, "Which are your go-to websites you visit before you start working on a new project to get inspiration and or visual references?"

Nik Hafermaas:

That's a good question. I stay away from go-to websites. I mean, I Google stuff. Of course, I do, but I'm very wary of pre curated things. I mean, there are great blogs and things, of course, whether it's design boom or whatever you call them, they exist, but it feels kind of predigested. And I want to discover this stuff myself, and I want to draw things out of chance encounters. When I Google a term or I go into an image search or so, it's always the discovery of things I wasn't exactly looking for, but they happen to be there and they're not pre curated. They're still in the [inaudible 00:34:02]. And then I go down the rabbit hole. For me, this is much more interesting than finding something that is already set by someone else who thinks that might be interesting to me.

Ralph:

So I have a question. How do you deal with... What's the best way to describe it? Kind of a sense of imposter syndrome, because in our field, I know we do a lot of creative things and sometimes you meet these professionals and they're like, "Ph, I'm an interactive art designer for..." And then insert a huge name company. How do you not feel like... Because it feels no matter what I add to my portfolio, it's never enough. Even though I know it may be for some companies.

Nik Hafermaas:

Yeah. Well, I think a certain amount of, I wouldn't say self, but a little bit of like, okay... Being a little bit critical with your own ideas and abilities is not wrong. So this is for... the bullshit detector that we all should have just, as you said, towards other people who just spewed, this kind of stuff, should also be a little bit of self criticality with yourself. So for example, in preparing this presentation today, which I did for tonight, I have often the point of like, "Oh, is this even interesting? Is this really just... Can I get any kind of excitement across?" I think it doesn't hurt to ask yourself these questions, but then to actually also be aware that... In Germany we have this thing, everyone is cooking with water.

Nik Hafermaas:

No matter what they imposter, everyone at the end of the day who is halfway aware is asking themselves, are my ideas interesting enough? Are they good enough? And as long as that keeps you going and keeps you trying and trying new things, then I think that's not the worst thing. So the bullshit detector that you have towards your own ideas, you should also have towards other people. And that makes you, in comparison, not feel like dwarfed by overbearing, I know it all creative creatives, because at the end of the day, I think as creatives, we all kind of being driven by the same ambitions and idea. And we also have the same vulnerabilities.

Ralph:

Thank you.

Speaker 4:

I have a question. Yeah. Hi, Nik, I'm Shae. I'm an art director and I'm really... Fashion. And as you know, fashion is becoming a worldwide issue because of fast fashion. So in my better verse, there's a way to make fashion have more longevity, more utility. I was wondering if you had any ideas on that as well, because I feel we could be doing more to make fashion last longer and to give people... I guess when I saw that technology with the e-paper, I thought about, how could that translate maybe into some kind of fibers that... But if my white shirt could be pink tomorrow instead of I have to buy a pink one. So that's where my ideas come from as far as my better verse of fashion.

Nik Hafermaas:

I think that's a absolutely fascinating, what you're saying. And it's really... Because people talk now about slow fashion and buy something that will last you forever. So it's not only physically lasting forever, but you never get tired of it, but that's not fashion. So I think, in fashion, you actually have this conundrum, you have this problem to me fashion is the fact that it changes and that you can articulate your white mood one day and your pink mood the next day and the green mood the following day. So this change somehow needs to be available and it needs to be a part of expression.

Nik Hafermaas:

So we can't just all wear black t-shirts for the rest of our lives, that are harvested it in some sustainable way. That's not going to fly. So we actually need you and your ingenuity and your curiosity and inventiveness to actually make that happen. So we can still have that change. We can still have the expression, but we do it in a more mindful way. So, we are right on, I don't have a perfect solution for you, but I think that if this is your goal for the better first. Shae, then go for it. Maybe talk to some material scientists, look at what kind of materials get free cycle.

Nik Hafermaas:

Think about deconstructing pieces that are already there and reconstructing them in different ways. Think about maybe there is some shape shifting stuff. So, your hands get longer and shorter depending on some kind of influences. I know what it is yet, but I think it's one of the most exciting fields. And I feel that there's going to be a huge amount of innovation just as an architecture, because it's necessary because people have the desire to continue to use fashion as self expression.

Speaker 4:

Awesome. Thank you so much.

Speaker 5:

Hi, Nik, do you have any great words of wisdom for when things completely fall apart? You've worked on these big projects, how do you deal with someone that says, this isn't going to happen?

Nik Hafermaas:

Well, Danny, no, I don't have any great words of wisdom. Just fucking carry on. I mean, it's like pull yourself up and you say... Maybe one thing is that I can say, and that's from my experience we're very attached to ideas, but our ideas are not us. So if someone doesn't buy your idea or criticizes your idea, take it personally, but not too personally, because it's not about you.

Nik Hafermaas:

It's just an idea and chances are... And I try to show that in my little short stories, is that it's not necessarily that your idea sucks. It might be that it just is not in the interest of your audience right now, because they want to earn money. And your idea maybe doesn't make money too much, or they have other priorities or you're just ahead of your time and people need to catch up with it. So there are so many ways why an idea might not be successful in the moment, that are not even a judgment call about your idea. So the art of, I think, persuasion to be able to talk about your ideas, to get an advocate, to get someone who might, get the ear of someone who actually can help you make something happen. That is super important. So try to find allies. I think, that's the best tip I can give you and just carry on and don't throw those ideas away because put them in a drawer and there might be a point the right time to pull them out again.

Ralph:

Thanks.

Samantha:

Hi. I have a question. I have an idea. Oh, sorry. No idea. Question. Thanks for your ideas. What do you, well... We always kind of ask everyone that comes, what do you thinks going to happen? Kind of thing, but this trend towards...

PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [00:42:04]

Samantha:

... kind of thing. But this trend towards ... It's been happening, but of course, it's just exploded with Facebook that's now Meta. And I notice most of your designs are physical and external and this kind of relationship between us, as designers, and where design goes and using materials and building and changing environment and changing everything outside.

Samantha:

Do you think that this kind of controversial space of designing interior and virtual spaces is better, worse, more sustainable? We're not going to be using as much material to build these landscapes and clothes and things that we might be using in that space. So yeah, just kind of that relationship between how much has to be used, to create new designs, and then demolished and dismantled and rebuilt.

Nik Hafermaas:

Yeah. So [Samantha 00:43:17], is it more about the relationship between design for the still called virtual or the digital round, versus design for the physical realm? Is that kind of what this question is about?

Samantha:

Yeah, kind of like that. Where do you see that going, or where do you maybe fit yourself in that with-

Nik Hafermaas:

Yeah. That's a great question.

Samantha:

... [crosstalk 00:43:44] spaces.

Nik Hafermaas:

Yeah, that's a great question. There's many avenues to take this in, as an answer. So, one thing is that I truly believe that a lot of our life is going to be digital, it already is, and that there's no stopping that. It's going to increase more and more. The thing that I believe, though, is that what has to happen, what has to change is that too much of our life, right now, is on this piece of real estate. And if I take, now, a post-it here that I have from my desk, here, this post-it is even almost bigger than the real estate that provides all my information, all my entertainment, all my communication.

Nik Hafermaas:

My view of the world is filtered and compressed onto this piece of real estate. I happen to be one meter 85 tall, so the scale difference between me as a person that has a body, that has senses covering this body, and this thing that is supposed to provide everything, that's just outrageous. That's wrong. So, I'm often talking about that second digital revolution. The first one brought us all these screens, and the second one should help us to get rid of all these screens and liberate all that content, so it becomes more human scale, and it aligns more with our senses, for example. It is, right now, we have to conform to technology, and that's ridiculous. Technology has to conform to us. Otherwise, it's completely senseless.

Nik Hafermaas:

So, I see this explosion of the digital merging with the physical space, in ways that maybe your generation's going to figure out. Maybe I'm too much of an old fart for that. But this is something that is bound to happen. So there will be, at a certain point, almost no more distinction between, okay, what is physical? What is virtual? And we're seeing this to start.

Nik Hafermaas:

So, that's one way, and that's maybe the positive vision that I have towards that. The other thing, when you talk about, okay, maybe what consumes more resources, if you build things in physical and build things electronically or digitally? Yesterday, I talked to a friend, and he said, "Do you know how much energy it takes to send one follow to your friends or post one photo on your mobile? That takes more energy than a light bulb burning for three hours."

Nik Hafermaas:

So, right now, we don't even know. Just because there's no physicality, we think there is no environmental impact on what we do here, and it is a crazy ass impact in terms of energy, if you work in digital. So, I think this balance is much more radical than we thought so far. And with the discussion about how much energy is used to mine crypto, for example, I wasn't aware of that. I had to learn that maybe half a year ago. And so the impact of our creations and which medium we're creating, I think we haven't fully grasped that yet.

Samantha:

Great. Thank you.

Speaker 6:

Chloe, I have a question about-

Speaker 7:

[inaudible 00:47:21] Oh, sorry.

Speaker 6:

... how do you stay up to date on the latest technology? I feel like it's developing faster than we can. And besides reading the news, is there some source for you, or do people come to you? That ePaper, how do you learn about these things?

Nik Hafermaas:

I got lucky. They actually came to me because I experimented with another material, which is LCD glass, which is classic and turn from clear to opaque, and I did a couple big, public art installations out of this material. And then they saw, okay, this guy can do this. We're going to ask him if he wants to work with our material, but that doesn't happen very often, to be honest. That's very rarely a thing happens, that technology actually finds you.

Nik Hafermaas:

At Graft Brandlab, our little agency, where we do a lot of future forward work, the job description of many of our people who work for us is truffle pig. So truffle pigs have this amazing nose, and they can smell the truffle through layers of dirt and know where to dig. So, truffle pigs, you have to have truffle pigs, who have their passion and curiosity. And they look, once again, not so much at curated, pre-curated, what is hip, what is new design websites, but they look at different things.

Nik Hafermaas:

They look at boring, scientific stuff. They watch very strange, nerdy things. They read science fiction. I don't know. And they just have a way of walking through the world, where they just stumble across stuff. Most of the invention that we call invention, creative invention, is usually combining two things that don't necessarily fit together yet. That's how a joke works. That's how invention works. You take two things, and, oh, this is a material that was originally made for tiny little screens. What if I made it really big?

Nik Hafermaas:

And this is kind of Dan Goods from NASA JPL. He's the master of truffle pigging, of finding this crazy ass technology and then making something else out of it. So, I can't really give you hands-on advice, go to this website, but it's more a mindset. It's more an attitude that will be very helpful, and then you will be surprised what you will discover.

Speaker 6:

Thank you.

Ralph:

Nikolaus?

Nik Hafermaas:

Yes, [Ralph 00:50:08].

Ralph:

Yeah. You said you're an old fart, but I don't think you're an old enough fart to have been around in the 60s. I'm going to say that I think this is more disruptive than the 60s, what we're headed into, or what we're in right now. And I think all of this operates within a social ecology or whatever you want to call that.

Ralph:

You brought up the Nazis, and I'm going to say, there's a lot of similarities. The book burnings of the Nazis, the internet censorship that's going on nowadays, stigmatizing a group of people, versus today, stigmatizing certain groups of people, the violence, summer of 2020. A lot of people were not aware of the antifa rioting in Portland, Seattle, all these cities. If you weren't on certain channels, you wouldn't have seen this. And I see a lot of protests in Germany, what's going on there, more than in America. And I think the two forces are the centralization of power, people who like to control other people, and individualization.

Ralph:

And I think a good example of this is Klaus Schwab, COVID-19 and the Great Reset, if you've seen that book or seen quotes or anything. Those are the two opposing forces that are happening. And I think you brought up cryptocurrency. That's one thing that is a counterforce to central banks and the Fiat currencies that are solely inflating or going to collapse, who knows. I'd like your opinion on where you see these two forces going, and I'll say, where's the Bob Dylans of today? But artists are typically in the forefront of the individualization movement. I don't see anybody who's standing up. Eric Clapton did and got smashed down because of his reaction to his vaccination. But I don't see the artists standing up there for individualization. Anyway, I'd like your opinion on that.

Nik Hafermaas:

No, that's a tall order, Ralph. I don't know. I think that there is something ... That's a very astute observation that you have, radical centralization on one hand and radical individualization on the other hand.

Nik Hafermaas:

I believe, though, that the net-net of people is not getting any better and not getting any worse. I would dare to say the percentage of assholes is pretty equally distributed, throughout history and throughout cultures and nations and states. The only thing that's different is the means on how they can act on their assholiness. So right now, assholes can spread their word much more easier than before and can mobilize other people much easier than before, or in countries that have a high density of privately-owned weapons, the way to do physically harm is getting much easier for these assholes. But the number of assholes is always the same.

Nik Hafermaas:

So, I don't know if that really answers the question. You could also turn it around. The number of people who are really courageous and really want to innovate and are fighting for their rights is probably also the same. You had freedom fighters in the Middle Ages. They got burned. So, I don't know. I'm very wary of saying things go much better, or things go much worse. I think the circumstances and the means, they are changing, and there's few things that, like our global climate catastrophe, that is the same. That's on one trajectory. That is not something that's even. This is something that really comes to a culmination point, that hopefully will galvanize big parts of civilization to do something about it. And how difficult that is, we just learned again at the summit.

Nik Hafermaas:

So, I don't know if this brings any direct answer to you. The one thing that I really believe into is creativity and the urge to reinvent ourselves, invent solutions to the most dire problems, and that is our rocket fuel. And if we're able to collaborate and to channel our creative energy, I think there is almost nothing we can't overcome.

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