Few months back I’ve discovered and started listening the excellent podcast The Secret History of the Future. Each episode of the series focusses on one technology that is currently making the news (AI, electricity and the brain, VR, autonomous driving… ) and compares it with historical moments when comparable innovations were causing very similar strong discussions. One of my favourite episode is about the problem of dealing with the ever-growing amount of information available online and through social media. If the overall amount of data is surely unprecedented, concerns about information overload are not new. When printing was invented, many intellectuals of the time, Martin Luther was one of them, were extremely worried that the new spread of publications would make it really hard to know what books were worth reading and which weren’t.
History could have a more systematic role in how we work in design and technology. The design thinking flavour of innovation has its key elements in discovering what people want, through interviews and in testing solutions early on, and in empowering everybody to be creative through well defined processes of ideation. Create something (apparently) new and make sure that it fits people’s desires is the gist of this approach, while looking back tends to be seen just as some accessory, optional work.
Is it right? Without letting our past condition us too much, I feel that some kind of - even ingenuous, quick and partial - historical research could give us perspective and inspiration for building what comes next. Especially since our times are not as special as we tend to think.