WTF is an Urban Futurist?

AKA I’m sick of waiting for a future that we could already have.

2017 July 19 — 49.263° N, 123.100° W, Earth, Orion’s Spiral Arm, Alpha Quadrant, Milky Way Galaxy, Laniakea Supercluster

I often get asked: what’s an Urban Futurist? And what does a futurist working for a hardware/Foodtech startup do? My typical response is that it’s a made-up title I chose because it encapsulates the largest contiguous groupings of my interests in two beautifully vague words. Historically I have, and still do, think a lot about cities, the future, and the future of cities. Or rather, the thoughts come to me, and I have no choice but to make it my responsibility to seek answers to the questions, and questions from the answers.

The reality for startups is that everyone involved needs to be versatile until said company grows beyond the tipping point to hire a full team. At AVA technologies I work with our founders, Valerie and Chase, on business strategy, research, company culture and direction. With a basic, yet broad knowledge of the multiple disciplines integrated into the fields we wander, I seek to de-risk every technical and non-technical component of our vision. My thought process spans from seed genetics, to material selection, to smart home interaction experience, making sure we cover as many key insights and actionable intel as possible. Most of the time, I feel like I’m saying crazy shit and people just get excited.

Matt Ross as Gavin Belson in HBO’s Silicon Valley

Truthfully though, I’m sick of waiting for the future that I know we could already have today. I am working towards building my influence, knowledge and productivity to the point that I have the power to become a future maker and not just a philosopher. When asked what AVA Byte is, in my mind, it’s about building on technologies and revolutions like the iPhone, crowdsourcing data, open source machine learning, and engaging value driven human centric design. At AVA, I’m working with the team to build products and a company that goes beyond simply creating a twentieth century consumer experience and outcome.

Data is the new oil, the Medium is the Message, and Maslow’s Hierarchy are some concepts that influence my definitions between eras. I will cover my thoughts around them in later writings, these are rabbit holes I don’t want to take you down (just) yet.

AVA Byte — Designed on Earth by Chase Ando

About the Byte
 Let’s just say that byte is not your typical hardware product, and it’s not designed to just be an electronic device that grows plants. Byte is a consumer driven, hardware-as-data-collection-platform concept (ours is scientific data,) that builds on the revolutions of the iPhone and Tesla in crowdsourcing data to make the already purchased device better. I want to provide us all a way to start contributing to making food computing mainstream, and an AI capable of understanding how to grow plants faster, larger, more nutritious, more delicious, and with increasing variation of flavours. This can all be accomplished by leaning from the arc of history, the failures of the past and building on the work of giants that came before. Beyond the disciplines of hardware startup hustle, we have been integrating existing technologies, methods, research and talent from multiple fields such as: industrial design, interaction design, vertical farming, food computing, nutrition, food science, plant science, pharmaceutical technology, computer science, data science and too many kinds of engineering to mention.

My intention behind writing is not to shill products. I will be wrong, I change my perspectives as I gain better evidence, and I welcome challenging debate in the same spirit. I can only write with passion. Some things will be seen as crazy, others obvious to those who are also futurists. And yet, despite digital communication, the awareness of key concepts and technologies can’t spread fast enough. I’m going to use this platform to do my part — making sure that the future I visualize arrives as fast as it can.

Three topics I encourage you to meditate on are:

  • What happens when abundant renewable, low maintenance energy and electricity can scale (grow large, fast) with demand at a near zero marginal cost (tiny costs or portion of income)
  • Instead of just thinking of Universal Basic Income as a way to replace social services, how do we use it to create economic liquidity, and as a way of empowering people out of subsistence-like, soul crushing jobs to incentivize the rapid upskilling our economies’ trillion dollar future industries need.
  • What happens when we Improve the total trip time, comfort and experience of commuting and and travelling long distance by 10X through mixed autonomous transport fleets, hyperloops, electric bikes, better designed cities and applying technologies and lessons learned from cities and infrastructure around the world.

I do not approach thinking or speaking about the future with absolute certainty. We are already in the middle of dozens of technological and social revolutions happening at the individual, social, and global scales. I understand cynicism in looking to the future with everything that is happening now. The positives of technology typically outweigh the negatives and tend to amplify the effect of each other. I hope to help spread awareness of the technologies and ideas that I think will propel us forward to a more abundant, equitable, co-operative, and capable humanity.

What I think we can look forward to in the very near future:

Less work
More creation
Less waste
More value
Less hunger
More play
More discovery
More exploration
More digital connection
More human to human interaction
Less screen and hardware interaction
Ubiquitous Augmented Reality in work and life
More nature conservation and rehabilitation.
More hiking and technology free camping and escape.
Art, exploration, and the pursuit of knowledge drive individuals, society and civilization.
Suffering, joy, tragedy, and comedy.

At AVA, we have extended our Indiegogo campaign for AVA Byte until August 13.

In the first thirty days, we raised $100,000+ from 659 backers in 33 countries! Back us now and join us in our mission to “Feed the world’s transition to sustainable food.” Like and share our campaign and follow me on LinkedIn, Medium, Instagram, and try to decipher my Soundcloud and Behance creations.

Here are some more rabbit holes for you to fall down:

Print the Future

This concept will further globalize, individualize and customize our material culture. Having thought at length about multiple elements of the idea, it is as exciting a business idea I’ve come across.

Why? Imagine purchasing a digital license to 3D print a custom bicycle for home, and flying to another continent where a perfect copy is waiting for you.

  • The global supply chain will be disrupted by an ever increasing 3D printing capacity and throughput within the centres of demand and creation: cities.
  • Operating a 3D printer at close to 100% capacity creates demand for more printing capacity, and results in rapidly upgrading to faster, more capable next generation printers creating opportunities for rapid transformation of individual, organizational and city scale industrial and creative capacity.

Gurru by Kabuni and Print the Future was launched two days before this was published. Generative design will allow more people than ever to design and create, accelerating us to a point in the near future filled with objects and structures that we can’t imagine now.

Awareness is the first problem for a solution that has already arrived.

Futurism has been one of the best sites for covering and popularizing important concepts, technologies, and foresight. Like it on FB and add a steady stream of radness to your feed.

Well read and written audiobooks are music to my ears.
Ghost Fleet is my First Futurist book recommendation. In the book, you get a glimpse of the near term technologies that might arrive tomorrow, or tip the global balance of power in a decade. Vivid imagery of mass market and military augmented reality, cyborg hackers, beyond the horizon naval warfare, the first space battle, and the first space pirate assault highlight a cast of flawed, believable, and diverse characters.

Saul Williams — Burundi feat. Emily Kokal of Warpaint

Artist Recommendation: Saul Williams Spotify, Apple
Actor, writer, poet, singer, rapper, musician. Saul’s work melds into the world of performance art, fine art and captures the timeline in its form.