Future Factory Today


Last night I was on the phone discussing the very thing I’ve just caught on design website Inhabitat with Accelerating Change salon-boy Jerry Paffendorf: variable-geometry product architectures of the kind being explored by FutureFactories. It’s interesting that it comes up because a couple months ago a variable-geometry shape evaluation tool for designers called Genometri was discussed over on the Core77 design website. From what I understand that tool to be, I personally don’t think it makes much sense; for the most part designers know which shapes they want to evaluate, so having a program generate, say, a thousand variations is a bit overkill when they might only want to see two or three variations before making a final decision. However, if a designer controls the variability, as appears to be the case with Lionel Theodore Dean’s FutureFactories effort, it makes quite a bit of sense. A designer could limit the variations by carefully setting the parameters; and as Jerry said, consumers can just use sliders to get the individualized shape they want for their product (which is exactly how avatar shapes in Second Life are generated). But Dean’s effort gets to the point I was making with Jerry that even Isaac Asimov in his old short story titled “The Profession” (which I read maybe 30 years ago, can’t find any reference to today, and would appreciate someone correcting me if I have the title or the author wrong so I can post a link to it), understood that someone has to remain outside the programmed “system” to create “out of the box” breakthroughs societies need for continued growth and development. Someone has to dream up the latest computer chip architecture for which average programmers write code. Someone has to create the base avatar shape upon which the sliders operate. Someone has to conjure up the sandbox in which most people will play, and occasionally change it’s shape.

{Image Copyright © Lionel Theodore Dean}