The Future: Nomads or Replicants?

Imagining realities

In 2004 there was no Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, Uber, Airbnb, Zoom, or the iPhone, and today many of these instruments and services are already globally and massively used and play an increasingly intense role in our lives.

Thus, technologies and their associated resources have steadily advanced over personal and collective habits, and along with it, the obligation to adapt to their practices, so much so that, during the pandemic and derived from this zeitgeist, it was thought, and not without anguish, that half of the world's face-to-face professional or trade jobs were going to disappear as a result of the emergence of a new, overwhelmingly digital cycle. According to these statistics, more than one billion people in the world would lose their traditional jobs due to automation, and today we could also think that with the application of new technologies in the immediate future, these numbers could be even higher.

Along those lines, Jensen Huang, the CEO of Nvidia, in a speech before university graduates, warned that Artificial Intelligence (AI) would create new jobs in corporate areas or in university spaces that did not exist before, among others, prompt engineering, AI Factory ops, and AI security engineers and that, as a consequence, there would be an exceptional labor change in the activity of programmers, designers, artists, salespeople, and manufacturing planners. He closed his presentation to the students with a demanding invitation, "Hurry up and create something with AI technology because if you don't, you risk being left behind. Run, don't walk!"

An innovative urban university cluster of young intelligence, UADE, Buenos Aires, 2023, Oficina Urbana/Roberto Converti, Fabio de Marco Arquitectos. Image © Oficina Urbana

In this regard, in a recent interview, Rebeca Hwang, who was born in Seoul and lived and grew up in Buenos Aires, and since 2003 has led projects in Silicon Valley and has recently been recognized as one of the World Economic Forum's Young Global Leaders and one of the 35 Global Innovators under 35 by the MIT Tech Review, explains that "The world of artificial intelligence is today a present revolution that threatens to become one of humanity's greatest challenges." Leaving open the importance and challenge of both sides and their consequences, when referring to the model of the social education of the future, she claims, "As a teacher, I hardly value or give credit for knowledge anymore, but I do value and give credit for narrative, how decisions are made, how reasoning is done. Collecting data is taken care of by machines."

Thus, any statement on the impact promoted by technological changes always seems to predict a significant transformative effect on the cultural customs of the society, the territory, and the place it occupies. A subject that is always very difficult to predict with accuracy.

As an example, Blade Runner, a film directed by Ridley Scott in 1982, which revolves around a group of six replicants, humanoids produced by biological engineering, who escape from a prison planet to Earth to reach the Tyrell Corporation, the company that created them, to modify and even understand their destiny and existence, takes place in Los Angeles in the year 2019.

Therefore, the exceptional and complex predictive scenario where the film, created with the most intelligent science fiction, occurred and which produced in parallel a remarkable disruption on how to imagine the temporality and the shape of the urban, architectural, and social space of the future, took place more than four years ago.

Architecture and university education, an influential social reference of the city, UADE, Buenos Aires, 2023. Oficina Urbana/Roberto Converti, Fabio de Marco Architects. Image © Oficina Urbana

Imagination, without being exact, can surely anticipate other possible realities. That is why Blade Runner has been an influential visual landmark due to its setting and the aesthetic description of a city with a rarefied and decadent atmosphere and for its ethical vision of the prophecy of the omnipresent advance of science and technology in the existence of replicated or mutant characters. As such, it has become a preview of the fundamental themes of the twenty-first century by creating a scenic space associated with the territory, technologies, and future nature of humanity.

These data, published by The Economist, account for a nomadic and changing world. "Last year, 1.2 million people moved to Britain. In Australia, net migration is now double the rate recorded before COVID-19. Nearly 1.4 million people are expected to move to the United States this year. In 2022, net migration to Canada was more than double compared to the previous record. In Germany, the rate was even higher than during the 2015 migration crisis. In their attempt to counteract the impact of population aging, countries such as Japan and South Korea are looking more favorably on those arriving from abroad than before. The developed world is in the midst of an unprecedented migration boom. The foreign-born population of countries is growing faster than ever in history. Post-COVID economic indicators provide a significant part of the explanation for this phenomenon. Unemployment in developed world countries, at 4.8%, is at the lowest level in decades."

Indeed, in the face of such relevant information, it is conceivable to suppose that societies that give a new place to so many immigrants, immigrants themselves, and even those societies that lose them, will undergo extraordinary changes of all kinds in the short and long term.

In the face of this random and moving scenario, where the calling for collaboration, flexibility, and well-being seems to be a permanent objective in the desire to redefine, adapt and organize our cities and communities and even in the design of our intimate places and the place where we study or work, it would seem interesting to link these ideals with the predictions of the CEO of Nvidia about  AI, with Rebeca Hwang's valuing of knowledge and decisions in education, with the replicant travelers to the rarefied urban atmosphere of Blade Runner and with the global nomads described by The Economist and then pose the questionː What of all this will make us different?

Main image: New building for the UADE university campus in the central area of Buenos Aires, 2023, Oficina Urbana/Roberto Converti, Fabio de Marco Arquitectos. Image © Oficina Urbana