Now We Can Do Anything, What Will We Do?

“The twentieth century will be chiefly remembered by future generations not as an era of political conflicts or technical inventions, but as an age in which human society dares to think of the welfare of the whole human race as a practical objective”
Arnold J. Toynbee, English historian (1889-1975)

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech on December 11th, 1957, former Prime Minister of Canada Lester B. Pearson quoted historian Arnold Toynbee, well known for his monumental A Study of History. The main thesis of Toynbee’s work is that the well being of a civilization depends on its ability to respond creatively to challenges, human and environmental. He was optimistic about the twentieth century. He believed that the cycle of rise and decline was not inevitable, that the future is not determined by the past, and that a civilization could choose and act wisely in the face of recurring hardships.

Our world now faces profound challenges, many brought on by innovation itself. Although optimism runs counter to the mood of the times, there are extraordinary new forces aligning around these great challenges, around the world. If you put together all that’s going on at the edges of culture and technology, you get a wildly unexpected view of the future. Massive change charts this terrain.

One thing is certain. We don’t need a thought police. We need discussion. We need thinking. We need critical faculties. We need to embrace the dilemmas and conflicts of design, and take responsibility for the outcomes of our work. When we use the term “we”, we don’t mean designers as separate from clients, or as some extraordinary class of powerful overseers. We mean “we” as in citizens collectively imagining our futures.

It is critical that the discussions go beyond the design fields themselves and reach out to the broadest audience, to the people directly affected by the work of designers. The effect of the new conditions is to distribute potential, or capacity, worldwide and allow contribution by anyone, anywhere.

The future of global design is fundamentally collaborative. In this condition, there is no room for censorship.

Bruce Mau
from Massive Change
A Manifesto for the Future Global Design Culture

Massive Change