The future is intimate. Or is it?

In the age of digital, we have reached a pinnacle of hyperconnectivity. Where social media dictates lifestyle choices, A.I. lives in our smartphones, and wi-fi is an expectation rather than something you search for.

The unknown is no longer an excuse with Google at our disposal, Instagram keeping us up-to-date with live stories, and iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, and more, maintaining plenty choice for instant streams of communication.

We are now, more than ever, connected to each other. But have we lost the human touch?

This year’s Pause Fest explored the concept, ‘the future is intimate’. Across creativity, tech and innovation sectors in business, the conference uncovered insights, surveyed new ideas, and tackled the challenges we face in social, economic and technological growth moving into the future. From NASA, Google, Adobe and CSIRO, through to WGSN, City of Melbourne, Airbnb, Movember Foundation and General Assembly, heavyweight players from around the world, across all sectors gathered to share thought-provoking ideas.

After three jam-packed days, what we learned was that the future is indeed intimate – but only if we make it. With innovation and tech on the rise, it’s really up to us, as leaders and designers, to preserve – and shape the intimacy of our future.

But how? Below are some of our key takeaways from Pause Fest 2019.

Foster human connections

“Design should be purpose driven, to help humans flourish. Genuine human connection is the number one ingredient. But you don’t want to own it – you want to facilitate it, catalyse it.” – Andy Fallwshaw, Founding Designer, Bellroy.

While we are connected more than we ever have been through digital technology and the internet, it’s important to recognise our desire for human connection in our day to day lives.

Human connection is something that definitely can’t be forced. But design has the power to draw it out.

Dan Mckenna, project lead of the Nightingale Housing, spoke of how the acclaimed project uses housing design to do just that, hitting the middle ground where human connections might already exist in and among the living space, and facilitates them to make them stronger.

Human-centred design isn’t about asking people what the answer is. It’s about spending the time building empathy, to try and understand what can be leveraged from what people are already doing, generate insights and innovate from there.

Whether it’s a new building, tech app, service or retail product, the design process must be meaningful and inclusive, and always remembering to be empathetic with the needs of its audience. Through this approach, we can facilitate real human connections, and create a sense of ownership and belonging that is in more than anything, intimate.

Tech as the conduit, not just the mechanism

As Troy Hitch, Global Chief Innovation Officer of Proximity Worldwide pointed out, “technology is not only an enabler and problem solver, it is also the great comfort maker for us.” In many cases, technology can make us complacent or disconnect us even more from ourselves and each other. But when designed with purpose and empathy, technology has the power to enable and empower us as individuals, as well as a society.

A leading example of this is smart cities, where technology works with infrastructure, systems, communities and people, to evolve and better them.

“Smart cities are designed and developed in a way that fosters connections individually, economically, and culturally.  where interactions become less transactional, and more relational, sharing a language and vision for how we, as a society, want to live together.” – Bruce Ramus, Ramus Illumination.

In smart cities, technology is the conduit that allows for change and enables cities to grow. Decisions are made and led by evidence of what the community needs, using tech as a way to gather information and data, and optimise systems.

But ultimately, smart cities are human-led and should remain so as we continue to innovate. Technology is not the solution, it’s the channel in which connects us with what we need to solve problems and evolve for the better. With people at the forefront of the equation, we will be able to preserve and build on an intimate future.

Empathy is the new black

It’s no longer just an industry buzzword. Empathy matters. As we continue to rapidly evolve the way we live, explore new ideas and thrust forward innovative solutions, we must not forget our human selves.

From fostering connections to human-centred, behavioural design, empathy is the number one key to unlocking intimacy. No matter how good the product, the service, the tech, the business, if we are not empathetic throughout the process, then we will ultimately miss the mark.

An intimate future means empathy, it means people and it means technology.

For digital solutions that connect people through human-centred design and technology, talk to us.