May 16th, 2014 By Jack Morton
Museums at Night, the annual three-day festival enabling Londoners to see the best of the city’s culture, art and heritage after hours, began yesterday.
I attended Digital City at the Museum of London, an invitation to ‘muse on how new technology affects our relationship with the city and unpick the digital versus material world’. And where better to explore a world of selfies, silent discos and sonic art, than against a backdrop of medieval weapons, Elizabethan jewellery, and 1970s trolleys from Heathrow?
Computer scientist Dr Nick Dalton gave one of many fascinating talks, on the themes of ephemeralization or ‘doing more with less’, and calm computing, defined as that which informs but doesn’t demand our focus or attention — a glaring contrast with the constant distractions of smartphones in 2014.
An interesting example of where these concepts could lead was a trial Nick’s team conducted of ‘the wine shop of the future’. Bottles are placed on digital pads which, using different coloured lights, record each wine’s popularity and feed into an Amazon- style ‘people who bought that, bought this’ recommendation system. This allows buyers to make informed decisions and provide helpful data without compromising their privacy or having to interrupt the experience by consulting their smartphone. Win-win.
In terms of what this means for the future of London, we could soon see our lives enhanced in the most ingenious of ways — cycle skyways, commuters swimming to work via canals, waste-free driverless cars everywhere and maybe, just maybe, oh please God one day, even air-conditioning on the Piccadilly line.