Sunday, January 13, 2008

Blog: Next Nature

Man's desire for grandiosity has run wild, with the result that the whole world is becoming transformed to suit his needs, that is, the needs he is conscious of having.

In fact, what is happening is that nature becomes cultivated, hence creating a 'Next Nature', or 'Nature 2.0', in the popularized terms of Koert van Mensvoort. The woods smell of shampoo, we can design our own pets, and people know more brands than birds. Koert is a homo universalis from Holland who explores this theme especially from an artistic viewpoint, and records his notions on the blog Since he is also a teacher in interaction design, the blog mentions interesting interactive products. An example are the 'Switch Critters', light switches that are not directly controllable but have to be persuaded into switching. Nature was never controllable, and it is an illusion that our 'next nature' can be controllable, and hence should not be designed to giving people the impression that they can easily control it. Instead, products should also support values like mysticism.

Anyway, this blog is a great inspirator and especially makes you see what is happening with the world. The task then is making sure that this next nature will be satisfying enough and takes humanity to a new level, because we are obviously not yet seeing the light. In our paralysis caused by a highly complex world, some Western/Dutch innovations simply seem to stem from rattle-brained fools. Just look at the image on top of this post. Potential onlooking aliens must be having an experience similar to 'laughing your ass off'. Oscar Niemeyer's architectural work for the city of Brasilia already in the 1960's told us that this approach will never work on the long term.

As a side notion, I must mention that I do not believe that the term used by Koert is an accurate description for the larger development that is going on. The dualism between nature and culture is merely one more to be dissolved in a process of union that we are seeping into. Just as the relationship between man and his technology tipped into a new harmony when we moved from an agricultural to an industrial organization of the world, we will now tip into another balance that will allow us to handle an even greater complexity. For example, we should learn how to integrate human's paradoxical needs for both expressive and norm-conformative behaviors towards the environment in one smooth system. And we should base this system not on abstract notions such as the optimization of money or time, but on experiential, human concepts like value, happiness, enlightenment. The understanding of the brain is the catalyst of this development, and the world will be a reflection of a happier human brain. But here I go again - this is long enough for a side notion.

For now, Next Nature is a nice concept to form an opinion about, so spread the word!

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