How's Your Future Looking?

David Zach wants to tell you!

What does the future look like? Who wouldn’t want to know that? But futurist David Zachsays it’s not about predicting—it’s about paying attention to the world around us, noticing patterns and shifts and asking good questions. Zach wants to ask YOU a question: Is there an app for you? Explore the future with Zach at the 2015 SEGD Conference: Experience Chicago June 4-6!

What does it mean to be a futurist?

My educational background is in political science and philosophy, and I have a master’s degree in Studies of the Future from the University of Houston. My business card says I’m a futurist and how I make a living is giving speeches. But really that’s only about 50 hours a year. The rest of my time I spend reading and exploring. Basically, I follow my curiosity.

Are you curious about design?

I don’t understand how anyone can NOT be curious about design. Design is at the center point not just of the economy, but where art and science meet, form and function, strength and beauty—and it’s essential for every industry, from education to healthcare.

I speak often with the design community, especially to architects. From 2010 through 2013, I was on the board of the American Institute of Architects as one of their public directors. That has given me the opportunity not just to speak with them, but more importantly to listen to them and find out what their hopes and worries are from the inside of the design industry.

What else have you been thinking and reading about lately?

I’ve been reading about the Apple watch a lot, which has led me on a path about technology and wearables and the Internet of Things. Lots of fascinating ground to cover. Here are the books I’ve been reading:

The Art of War Visualized by Jessica Hagy, the Indexed blogger, is a collection of these marvelous Venn diagrams that summarizes the ancient Chinese treatise on war. 

The Future of Architecture in 100 Buildings by Architizer founder Marc Kushner. This came out of a TED Talk and is a fascinating look at what we are asking of architecture, and how it is responding.

Freehand: Sketching Tips and Tricks Drawn from Art, by Helen Birch

A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things that Really Matter, by William Deresiewicz

The Internet of Things, just out and written by Samuel Greengard

There’s a lot of fascination, fear and excitement around the future. Is it possible to predict the future, and is that what you do?

It’s not about predicting. No one can do that. But we can pay attention to what’s going on in the research labs and on the cutting edge, from society to demographics to technology. And then we’re equipped to ask better questions: If this is happening over here, what else is likely to happen? What else does this mean is another good question to always be asking.

What conclusions might we draw about the future of design?

From where I’m sitting, two major forces are driving the economy: design and logistics. Design is how you create and organize your thinking about things; logistics is about how you organize and distribute those things. Logistics is measurable, design not as much. We are also seeing the automation of so many tasks: “There’s an app for that” is a common phrase these days. Apps essentially automate what is measurable: you see people using fitness bracelets and using fitness apps, and I just heard about a new app that detects HIV.

So, is there an app for you? Anything that is measurable—that is, anything that can be reduced to a number—can apparently be managed and sourced out. It’s the immeasurable things that can’t be automated. If you take the notion of Pareto’s Law, consider that 80% of what you do will be better done by a machine or someone else. If you want to remain employed, you need to figure out the 20% of what you do that can’t be replaced and make it a unique offering and how express the value of that moving forward. What is it that you do that a machine cannot do that someone is willing to pay you to do?

Those are very general statements I’ve just made. But the point is to get you thinking about what it is we do that is uniquely human.

Meet David and explore YOUR future at the 2015 SEGD Conference: Experience Chicago June 4-6!

Read David’s latest article, “Thinking Into Other Boxes.”

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