Design Jobs of 2050
A Speculative Design and Fiction Project
In the year 2050, humanity has finally accepted and involved the rich vibrancy and agency from the entities that surround us, with their innate or intentional abilities to positively and negatively affect all the systems that surround them. There are a profusion of systems that societies rely on, that embody a confusion of social, technological, and environmental elements that depend on a delicate balance for equanimity. The boundaries of these systems have become blurred. Transhumanisation, enhancement-therapy, is a reality. AI assisted decision making is normalised in developed countries at the individual level through to all levels of government, from deciding where to eat or what to wear, to international policy making; hacking from interest groups and state-departments, is now the most subversive type of aggression between nations and organisations. Renewables are the most common form of energy generation which is now largely decentralised, reducing risk from natural disasters and network attacks. Ecology restoration projects which started before 2020 have seen forest systems begin to recover, though full recovery of these systems are still centuries away. Technology is attempting to balance out the collapse of pollinator insects for agriculture as well as forestry restoration projects. The diversity of systems has seen a rise in the need for experts that can unravel and understand the entwined relationships between all the actors in these systems.
Presented here are 6 design jobs on offer from the year 2050. Design as a skill in 2050, no longer exists as a discrete skill. Rather, design is acknowledged as a natural trait among intelligent beings. The skills that cross the creative and scientific chasm have become abundant and nuanced, as the blending and tensions of natural and technological systems have enforced a move away from humancentrism. Because of this, relevant philosophy subjects first became popular and then made compulsory and taught alongside language, maths and science, throughout school years.
The generation now entering the workforce, have been taught the foundations of foresight practice during their formative years, and they have also been introduced to concepts of object-oriented thinking through ecological and technological framing. This generation is accustomed to think beyond human spacial and temporal scales, and they readily acknowledge that human perception is not the only valid perception of our world. In a number of countries, government departments have AI assisting nation-building policy decisions, giving technology a power over entire populations. The public being aware of this technological influence on their lives, are cognisant of the mediating effects of all technologies, affecting every life across the globe. These accumulating acknowledgements introduce new life-centric needs and ethical implications that organisations must confront in their activities.
As societies increase their awareness of the needs of nonhuman entities, it drives the demand for equality and justice in complex systems, enforcing a new type of informed pressure on business and government. As business and government attempt to address these demands they realise that it requires evermore specialisation to understand nuanced definitions of justice, equality and ethics.
1. Service Layer Surveyor
A Service Layer Surveyor (SLS) undertakes several tasks: Primarily required to understand receded aspects of services and infrastructure. Experience interrogating system components, both material and immaterial, and analysis of user behaviours in and around the system is essential.
The SLS learns the service’s components as individual discrete objects, and being highly conscious of objects having their own impetus within systems. A SLS approaches a system as a unified federation of actants as it exists as a whole in its own right and its own space and time scales.
The key skill of the SLS is to uncover invisible discrimination and the levels of mediating factors that takes place when the service is operating as normal and the service is taken for granted by its users in daily interactions. User groups may involve nonhumans.
Skills in nonhuman speculative psychology is an advantage. Previous experience in time-scales other than human, is essential.
2. Researcher, Nonhuman User Specialist — Ecological
As our urban centres seek to improve and fulfil environmental goals, this job position is dedicated to seeking out the needs of nonhuman biotic and abiotic users, within the myriad systems that populations rely on. Examples include, the nature and behaviours of natural and modified watercourses in and around urban areas, or the needs of biodiversity island systems in dense city centres. Understanding these entities from an object-oriented design orientation is essential for nonhuman user researchers to appreciate the uncertainty of these entities’ actions upon, and needs within, human systems.
You naturally acknowledge the interconnectedness of complex systems without adhering to any preconceived narrow role of ecology or engineering, rather to understand holistically the rights and needs of nonhuman actants.
3. Anthropomorphic Technology Behaviourist
This position calls for a behaviourist that can research and produce intelligent human-like psychological traits and behaviours for technologies. The skill of this specialist is in understanding the technology from the object’s own reality. This individual can introduce appropriate reactions, habits and abilities in technologies, to expedite human acceptance of the technology, encouraging long-term use, and enabling a variety of relationships and bonding.
It is essential that the specialist understands the principles of mediations that technologies embody, which acknowledge the affect on behaviours of both technology and humans, and also the impacts technologies have on autonomy and morality of human experience.
4. Alien Language — Living Systems Communications
Developing the language of nonhuman entities is seen as a critical role in the negotiation and pre-planning phases of new infrastructure. This role delivers us a competitive edge for the company while ensuring a robustness of complex systems and infrastructure. Alien Linguists combine analytical, creative, and speculative skills, to uncover the lives and needs of nonhuman entities which may compete, or conflict with our systems. In this way, our systems can co-exist and harmoniously entwine with other entities and systems.
The role also takes on the responsibility to uncover the extent of systems. And to develop opportunities for establishing symbiotic relationships with interacting entities, so our systems can intelligently improve environments and reduce any impacts from our projects.
5. Researcher, Nonliving Users — Technological
What happens when autonomous systems encounter errors in interactions among themselves in places where human interaction is not a regular occurrence or even possible? How can these systems diagnose a different entity’s issue and either develop a work-around or perform maintenance? How can a malfunctioning system communicate the issue with a separate technological entity? Your role is to research and anticipate these scenarios and work with our development teams to prototype these experiences.
When global supply chains have sections of fully automated interacting services created by different companies with different priorities, cultures, values, and language, we need systems to perform tasks that humans once provided — ensuring the gaps between systems are identified, and when errors do occur, the systems can cooperate to overcome them.
Humans are needed to undertake nonliving user research to ensure our diverse complex autonomous systems can work harmoniously when malfunctions arise.
6. Inner-life Product Auditor — Product-Oriented Phenomenologist
We are tantalised with the idea of the inner life of objects and technology. The concept crosses cultures and time, and incorporates an intelligent application of anthropomorphism. With smart objects and automated machines being ubiquitous, this inner-life has never been more visible and concerning.
We need an Inner-life Product Auditor to ensure a number of our most advanced and connected products are behaving as designed and haven’t developed new unexpected traits through its software updates, its autonomous life experience, and its interactions with other systems.
Your role is to identify spontaneous inner life as benign, or if new behaviours pose a risk for cascading events which may initiate multiple conflicts within systems, or catastrophically fail and pose wider unknown risks.
Strong experience in speculative product psychology and product phenomenology, and team experience with Alien Linguists preferred.
Background to Design Jobs of 2050
Carpentry as Applied Philosophy, and Writing as Design Practice
The Design Jobs of 2050 project is a speculation on six design job advertisements in a future where expanded forms of object-oriented ontologies have promulgated throughout the design, foresight and creative industries across most countries, and has also found its way into schooling. Additionally, from a young age, concepts of foresight are taught in school curriculums.
This speculative creative exercise puts into practice several concepts that I have learned during my research and the Masters of Design Futures course generally. I apply, what Ian Bogost calls ‘Carpentry’ (Bogost, 2012, p.85), a type of applied philosophy. This creative process helps materialise, process, and visualise, the sometimes abstract concepts of philosophy that my research has been synthesising.
To help assist in this speculative design I used the Seven Foundations Model which was presented by Leah Zaidi (2019). This has similarities to PESTLE and STEEPLE analysis. The main difference is the transitional aspect from current to preferred futures with a 2-step transition.
As an influencing guide to my copywriting process throughout the project, I took onboard Arturo Escobar’s description of writing as a design practice and a ‘makers’ culture’ (2018, ch. Preface), which is in contrast to Ian Bogost’s retreat from writing as the only communication tool for philosophers.
Bogost, I. 2012, Alien Phenomenology‚ or What It’s Like to Be a Thing, Minneapolis, USA, University of Minnesota Press.
Escobar, A. 2018, Designs for the Pluriverse: Radical Interdependence, Autonomy, and the Making of Worlds, Apple Books, Duke University Press.
Zaidi, L. 2019, ‘How to Build Brave New Worlds of Work’, Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdZl5_PEeoI [Accessed 05 April 2020].