Chris Julien is a researcher at Waag Futurelab for technology and society while doing his PhD in “Ecological governance: Deep adaptation machines.” He is also part of the climate activism group Extinction Rebellion, taking part in climate protests that block off roads and institutions. “Like a lot of people, I am really concerned about our climate,” he explains. “I got involved in Extinction Rebellion because I felt really motivated by their way of acting. Being arrested has made me a legal ‘object of interest’ for the state but I have yet to pay one fine. My main consequence is that I feel less powerless and frustrated now. It has brought me more mental health and a bit of extra spine.”
In her inaugural lecture, Dr. Heleen de Conick spoke about system change. She is now Professor of Socio-Technical Innovation and Climate Change in the Industrial Engineering and Innovation Sciences Department of the Eindhoven University of Technology.
We should not wait on technology that is not yet fully developed to maybe save us in the future. Tech is already there for us; now we need to be there for it.
We are experiencing more extreme weather events all over the planet. We might look to technological innovation to get us out of the climate corner we have industrialised ourselves into. Speculative technology such as carbon capture, electric aviation and geoengineering are dropped into the public conversation as things that will definitely solve all our problems in the not-too-distant future. Without us having to do anything now.
Societal expectations that are based on gendered roles start early. Clothes for toddlers come mainly in pink for a girl and astronaut for a boy. Books for girls might focus on long-haired princesses waiting in a tower to be rescued, while books for boys tend to have main characters like chocolate technicians flying off in elevators. Thousands of ‘little things’ are scaffolded into systemic barriers that diminish the likelihood of any random human being who happened to be born a woman from becoming an (electrical) engineer.
Maybe you’ve seen the ads online for a new smartphone that will last you 10 years. Maybe you too clicked on one, only to be disappointed that this phone does not exist … yet. The “10-year phone” is an initiative that has been trying to get your attention, and the EU’s legislative attention, by tempting us with a future in which it becomes the norm for a smartphone to last a decade. In order for this to actually work, there would have to be legislation on repairability, continued software support and availability of parts — especially the battery. Information should be readily available on how to repair your phone yourself along with an official repairability score.
Technology that counts the steps you take, measures your heartbeat, or beeps when you’ve sat down for too long. Is this supportive technology really helping us?
Health-trackers like the Fitbit, Garmin fitness watch, Oura ring, and certain features on your Apple watch are supportive technologies meant to help you become a healthier version of you. In eHealth, such devices are often aimed at (future) patients of cardiovascular disease or diabetes type 2. Also known as “lifestyle diseases,” they are greatly influenced by our own behaviour. The support of the technology is based on measuring something and providing these metrics as feedback that we did not have before. It gives us insight into our own behaviour. We can see where we started, where we are now, and how close we are to a goal that we ourselves have set. These are three essential points of feedback we need to experience a sense of progress. Through technology we are better supporting ourselves.