The Big Question

Can we keep up with the pace of technology and are we using it correctly?

For most of human history the world changed slowly during a lifetime. Now, all aspects of our lives are accelerating.

Technology moves quickly, fuelled by the demands of our information-hungry society.

We need to anticipate how this will impact on our resources as well as our spaces, homes and transport systems.

As a society, can we keep up with the pace of technology and are we using it correctly?

Think further ahead for an all-electric future.

“The focus has to be on people with a new 21st Century curricula that is broad and adaptable, focusing on skills and creativity for all ages (not just those who fit the pre-prescribed window of ages 4-18).

And who would be the teachers? Maybe they shouldn’t teach something prescribed — perhaps they will prompt, provoke or simply inspire.

Beyond the curricula, what about the space we learn in? Our schools, colleges and universities have changed little over hundreds of years.

So how can we build and create environments that stimulate intrigue and curiosity? How could they be used beyond the classroom?

If it is too ideological to make a new curricula, there is nothing to stop us from making the buildings amazing, flexible and inspiring places.

Case Study
Driving self-sufficiency

With increasing populations and the continual growth of the developing worlds, our energy needs are forecasted to increase 30% by 2040. The essential shift to electric vehicles may well mean cleaner air, but won’t the increased thirst for energy add even more to the strain?

And what if the energy supplying the vehicle isn’t itself from renewable sources? One day the humble car might power the grid, but for now, there are initiatives focused on making it at least, self-sufficient.

Sweden, for example, has opened the world’s first electrified road that recharges vehicles as they drive via a moveable electrified arm connected to the underside of the car. In eastern China, a kilometre of road has been embedded with solar panels that will power highway lights, under-road heating elements and sensors. In the near future, it too will recharge batteries on the go as well as deliver traffic and mapping updates to vehicles, both manned and autonomous.

Build a curricula for the construction industry.

“When you look at the British high street, you can see how technology and the 4th industrial revolution has taken over.

Traditionally, the high street performed a hugely important social function. Now, when a local high street is in decline, we see this as a litmus test for a wider decline in the communities they serve.

Some areas of retail are managing to sidestep the footfall decline. Artisanal, bespoke-style stores are growing in popularity, and bring back a loyal, circular economy following. Makers and crafters with a focus on provenance are starting to bring manufacturing back to urban areas and providing employment for local people.

So what is the future for our high street? Can technology reconnect us to a time when they truly served society.”

Case Study
Returns for the high street

We know our high streets are in decline with new research showing that 39% of Britons ‘do not care’ if they close, with 23,000 shops forecast to close down in the UK in 2019. Where once out-of-town superstores were feared, it’s now the online corporations. Technology used in-store is also creating greater disparity. Brands like Macy’s have been transformed with new VR and AR increasing sales by 60%. But being virtual won’t solve the grim reality for the many.

Perhaps technology companies like NearSt could help. Working with innovation and research consultancy The Future Laboratory, they use real-time inventory data to help shoppers find what they need from nearby stores rather than being shipped from hundreds of miles away. By bringing shoppers back to the high street, it estimates a £9 billion increase in sales a year — equating to the average consumer making 7 more purchases on the high street than they do now.