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Houses of tomorrow: A more hopeful vision of domesticity, or a dystopian nightmare?
In the future, will we find a better way to live, or will our homes be taken over by surveillance and despotic appliances?
Imagine, if you can, a small, bluish room. Wires, screens, sensors. A few keepsakes from the old world. The room’s fleshy inhabitant, confined indoors by a zoonotic pandemic, greenwashes a data-mining company from her bed. The government has made it illegal for her to step outside.
There is a communal kitchen down the corridor, which she shares with a few strangers she met online, but mostly she orders her meals via an interface and eats them here. Microphones record her interactions. A motion sensor on her wrist reminds her to optimise her performance. Filled with saudade for the dying world outside, she has bought a few rainforest plants to brighten the space. Her pocket surveillance device reminds her to water them. She catches the news: the world’s richest man has just left the Earth’s atmosphere.
So much for the home of 2021! What about the home of 2050? Might it offer a more hopeful vision of domesticity than the dystopian nightmare some of us have been living through these past couple of years? Or are we inexorably sliding into a world of surveillance and atomisation, climate crisis and housing crisis, drowning alone as our meta headsets suck the very data from our souls?
Maybe a bit of both, says Sarah Douglas, director of the Liminal Space. She is behind the forthcoming Tomorrow’s Home exhibition at the Museum of the Home in east London, which imagines how we’ll be living three decades hence. “The home of the future could help us flourish in ever more tailored and sophisticated ways,” she says. “But it will be messy as we learn to navigate the huge benefits and ethical questions that new interactive technologies bring.”....
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