As technology forges ahead, more of our world is becoming automated, increasingly resembling the futuristic settings that were once only the domain of science fiction. This means a significant change in the way tomorrow’s innovators will design new products: it won’t just be a matter of human users interacting with objects, but also of objects interacting with their users. Moreover, many people have anxieties about robots and other “smart” objects—usually that they’ll gain sentience, turn evil, and try to exterminate the human race.
With the automotive industry’s continued exploration of fully autonomous vehicles, the time has come to reexamine automation’s social and psychological effects. At this year’s “Further with Ford” trend conference in Palo Alto, Techonomy CEO David Kirkpatrick moderated a discussion on the Automation Effect, exploring the cultural significance of automation as well as how automation will shape the future. “Our children’s stories are full of the perils and warnings of what it means to bring things to life. But it’s also the case that as human beings, we are absolutely and endlessly fascinated with what it would mean to do that,” said Intel’s Genevieve Bell, who spoke on the June 24 panel. Other speakers included Dr. Ken Washington of the Ford Motor Company and Jeevan Kalanithi of 3D Robotics.