There’s something familiar about Richard Seymour when he walks onto the stage; it turns out he’s been on TV, in magazines and has been ubiquitous with cutting edge design in Britain for decades. His talk was the longest of the day and was given the prime final slot of the morning before the afternoon workshops. He talked about so many different things that below is just a flavour of what was discussed.
To give you an idea of the speed in which he mixes ideas, in the first five minutes he mentioned Thomas Hobbes, the hotel in a balloon he has designed, the concept of feeling beauty rather than thinking it, and the Greco-Roman astronomer Ptolemy putting the Earth at the centre of the universe. Interestingly humans thought that we were at the centre of the universe for hundreds of years, the science of the time backed up the theory, it was a certainty. Richard wants us to understand that nothing is a certainty.
He went on to talk about the arrival of electricity in the USA and the now comical idea of people putting corks in the sockets at night to stop any leaking out. Their logic that if water or gas can leak out of the pipes that transport it, surely electricity can do the same? Richard explains that the future proceeds at the rate we can assimilate it – this is still true today.
He poked fun at people who come to his agency saying they need “some digital” – “how many kilograms” is his retort. His crosshair then turned to marketeers. “How many years is the average lifespan of a marketeer in a role?” he asks. Twenty months compared to 8 years for a supply chain worker, the marketeer is a mere mayfly in the grand scheme of things. Whatever they try has probably been done before, this corporate amnesia is a dangerous phenomenon, we must learn from our mistakes. Interestingly the mayfly marketeer is actually being paid on the success of his predecessor as his projects will come to market way after he moves on.
He mentioned nest and how snooping on your neighbours will become its main attraction before casually dropping in that he “was there” when text messaging was invented – actually “there” in a Finnish Nokia lab rather than being vaguely involved.
Anthropology is at the heart of everything Richard does. His examples of people opening a pack of sugar got the whole audience realising the importance of watching people’s behaviours rather than relying on focus groups.
Did you know that gyroscopes have been in missiles for 60 years? No, neither did I. It seems crazy that we only recently have them in our mobile phones but the truth is simple; nobody thought about it.
Richard sees the next big thing as genetics and you get the impression he is probably right. He seems to make a habit of anticipating the curve. In this section of his talk he continues to blow minds: mushrooms that glow and replace the need for lighting, check. Tablets from Dove that switch collegen production back on in post-menopausal women, check.
He left us with two thoughts: “If you lie, you die”. The scrutiny of the digital age means you better be honest, if not an army of trolls will get you. His last idea was a motto for everyone in the room: “Optimism. Truth. Honour”. I agree that the world would be a better place if people stuck to these three ideas.
As you can probably tell, Richard Seymour is a speaker who enchants the whole room. By the end of his talk the audience were so in awe that they clapped him for well over a minute. You get the impression that you’ve been lucky to spend even a short amount of time in the presence of a great man – I’m very glad I got to hear him speak.