Kirill Ignatiev – Chairman of the Board of Directors of the group of companies “Russian Investments” and coordinator of the research project “Technical progress and future economy”. At the heart of the project there are more than 350 interviews of scientists, innovators, businessmen and futurists from around the world. They were asked one question: “What changes in your industry in the near future will change our daily life?» These generalised data formed the basis of the project aimed at popularisation and investment into innovative developments that can change the future.
Designer and architect Maria Romanova met Kirill Ignatiev last summer in the old Russian town of Plyos. For Design Mate she talked with the entrepreneur about how technology will affect the work of designers, architects and our lives.
Today we not only know about the existence of 3D printing, but also saw this process. Engineers offer introduction of robots for construction and development of architectural concepts of printed houses. We have a revolutionary material graphene, which can power the LEDs and dramatically change the colour of fabrics; graphene can be used, for example, for stage costumes. The inventors create a cybernetic organism, and soon we’ll see flying drones-taxis and unmanned ground transportation. The list of innovations announced in the last year can be continued. Is this a new technological revolution?
Indeed, we have been so many major breakthroughs that could change our life that it is probably the first major change since invention of electricity and internal combustion engine. We are witnesses of large-scale changes, which are based on IT, an industry that has penetrated into all the areas of our lives and is changing them. Another factor is the speed of information dissemination, and in a broad sense, from cultural values and languages up to knowledge and creativity. Add to this the materials with controlled properties and additive technologies (first of all, 3D printing), and we will get the realities of today. And if we look the decades ahead, we will see three more important areas of development: a breakthrough in knowledge of the human body (genetic engineering and bioconstruction), quantum revolution (practical application of the world’s smallest particle technology in everyday life) and superconductivity that can be used in all spheres from transport up to energy.
It is generally believed that significant innovation can be created only during the period of great upheavals (and a crisis is an upheaval), instead of stagnation and transitional period, when everyone is looking for new forms and styles. Do you agree with this? What period do we experience now, and how is it reflected in various spheres of life, from art to science?
Today we are at the stage of completion of the longest recession in the last quarter of the century. The peculiarity of this moment is that the crisis itself is much less than its sensation. And it is quite clear why: the driving force behind the development of any economy is business, and the part of the business feels the crisis not because it still exists in principle, but because they have it. They did not have time to change, and for them the return of the “golden age” will never come – technology, consumption and demand have changed. Second feature is that for the first time a very big contribution to the beginning of the rise will be made by very young people. There will be a lot of millionaires among those who are now 14 years old. These people will become drivers of change in the twenties – I see this period as the “fourth industrial revolution”. This time the dependence will be different: technologies will not be born thanks to the crisis, and the crisis will be the result of changes in demand due to new technologies in transport, materials, energy and retail .
What kind of changes we will see?
65% of oil consumption is now transport, which is now switching to the electric standard: in the early twenties electric vehicles will go to the mass market . Another 15% – energy, which is also dynamically changing. Hydrocarbons will be needed not for burning, but for creation of new materials, but the growth of this industry lags behind the growth of electric transport. Moreover, some of the new materials will “spike” only at low oil prices, and this fall will entail another crisis and structural changes in the markets. The transition of trade to the Internet, including food products, the reduction of construction in the Old World countries and the growth of renting model in real estate and transport, hobby and luxury products will radically affect the demand and entail bankruptcies of large companies. The complex of these changes will cause the economic crisis already in the early twenties.
In some professions people are now replaced by robots. Can it happen that the development of 3D printing will be replaced by manual labor, or will they exist in parallel? For example, the toilet bowl from Japan is almost a space vehicle, and the art of origami is still relevant.
Manual labor will increasingly become art and, accordingly, will rise in price. Some part of handmade are historical crafts, and we now see growing interest in culture and history. Fashion for traditional culture is a trend, supported by technology, social networks and private educational programs. The new world is a new demand for knowledge and erudition. After all, the formula when which you follow the changes is “appreciate every minute, get useful, technological knowledge and expand erudition”, and cultural baggage in this sense is very important. Automation will capture serial production, but the category of manual labor itself will not disappear, especially in fisheries, handicrafts and creative industries.
Architecture and design are directly related to technological progress, with an introduction of innovations and the emergence of new materials. On the other hand, both architecture and design still work with the cultural heritage. Some people print futuristic house using 3D printer, and some people suddenly choses cozy classics. How will this industry develop in the future?
We are waiting for the style customisation: the demand for individual design will grow, more and more people, even in a humble station, will want to translate their ideas into personal interiors. That is why we’ll have a breakthrough in the field of inexpensive interior and furniture items. And in view of growth of the rental market instead of selling market, it will be a very promising market. Demand for for style solutions will be as wide as possible: the future will not abolish the demand for art deco, Empire style or Japanese minimalism, but these demands will become one of hundreds – the era of strict style change will change into a kaleidoscope of individual solutions.
With the development of technology, designers and manufacturers will be able to respond much faster to fashion and trends. Logistics without any intermediaries will build Internet services, there will be no so many offline show-rooms, but the exhibition will be in demand as a place where you can see and touch every product. In general, offline trading is moving towards connecting with the concept of “exhibition”, and exhibitions, just like parks, will become a place for leisure, meetings and social communication – we are gradually moving from the architecture of buildings to the architecture of life.
At the same time, architecture and decor will change technologically: there will be numerous services that will simplify the work of architects and decorators. Modelling the interior in some 3D software the decorator will be able to instantly select and buy items from a common database – there is no need to go to the store or to the factory website. If individual production is required, it will be possible to get an overview of the potential manufacturers and compare them. Downloading the ready-made 3D models and their binding to the premises will be very simple, the customer will be able to observe the work on the project, pay for it and control it remotely, and the logistics services will deliver materials and furniture in time. Information about the habits, tastes and characteristics of each person will be collected in Big Data array, and if the customer gives the decorator access to some of his personal information, artificial intelligence will help to pick up items that match the style and taste of the customer. In the long term, IT solutions will automate this process, and non-demanding people will be able to do that without the designers. Individual design, just like handmade, will become art, popular among connoisseurs. Technologies will not only take away, but will also bring money to the designers: in the next 25 years “machine creativeness” will become a skillful compiler, but not an author. Author’s creative will be simply monetised with the help of the Internet. If you put a chair invented by you on a special website, after a quick check of original authorship, you will be receiving royalties from each produced object, no matter who ordered it at any production plant.
Unusual solutions come from IT field: the simplest chips will soon be no more expensive than paper and the wall covered with chip layer will be able to change colour and have image just like wallpaper. You will be able to change the wallpaper, or turn the wall into the screen with a couple of clicks on your phone.
What will be the changes of the representation of a person about the urban and residential environments, what his private house will look like? Will there be any private houses, in principle?
Of course the city and living environment will change: city center will be closer to «park» concept, unmanned vehicles will solve the parking and “traffic jams» problem, the number of private homes will grow. Multi-storey building will thrive only in India, Africa and Southeast Asia.
However, it is important to note that in addition to the ubiquitous Internet of things there will something else. It is humanisation and harmony, naturalness. Environmental and healthy lifestyle values will only become more important. Studies confirm that in an environment familiar for a man and his ancestors the life expectancy is higher than in a foreign environment. People will be migrate less to a different environment and climate. And skyscrapers – is generally a bird habitat, life on the higher floors is stressful for the body and in the future they will be the same monuments, just like medieval castles today. A private home will be the main format of life in developed countries. More and more often people will work at home. This would entail demand for organisation of places for work and sports in the houses, and the office spaces will be developed just as eco-systems, including the residential spaces. This format will be useful for those who work in agile format (agile development). Just like many factories have become lofts, commercial premises will continue to change their purpose: they will be used as houses, coworking places, educational spaces and even agricultural facilities.
What will happens to the premium brands and»luxury” brands?
Great luxury era is coming to end: brands will focus on the “Generation Z», they will be forced to go to greater customisation and expand its range. I believe that we will see the mass death of brands over the next 20 years, as it was a century ago, during the Great Depression. Only those will survive who will use new internet marketing system and the most successful will be those who will continue to «form the fashion” or will have a stable demand in «ultralux category». For new generations the brand value will be lower in favour of functionality, design and comfort. At the same time, there will be new powerful brands: companies from the virtual economy will expand its presence in the objective world.
What should people with a keen sense of beauty, aesthetes and collectors do, who are now recommend not to invest in antiques, but in innovations?
I will give the opposite advice. In order to successfully deal with new technology, you need to rule your business every day: if you do not catch the trends, you can left behind and lose. But not all people are able to manage online business. Those who have sold his business and has funds often chooses the way of a passive investor. But for them the best option is to invest in the eternal values that will never lose its price, for example, in real estate in the historic centers of cities or unique locations. The trend for the future – careful preservation of protection zones, greater attention to cultural heritage in places where nobody will build new houses. Therefore, my formula is: to invest in future technologies, if you are confident in the management, but invest in the eternal values, if you are a passive investor.
I know that in addition to the future you are interested in the past. Is there some kind of stable trends in the world of antiques? Will every year something become antiques, will the furniture of 60s be valued just like, for example, Biedermeier style?
I’ll start from the end: furniture of 60s – is the trend today. Scandinavian design of that time is one of the sales that most often reproduced by the factories this year, and this is no accident. This trend is a reflection of the breakthrough in “luxury” era development. In order to revive the luxury in a variety of custom solutions, it will pass the period of standardisation and simplification. Accordingly, some authors works of the period of pan-European unification today become the the collectors’ passion riding on the wave of the fashion.
World antiques market really narrows due to the art of past centuries. A period of great wars, seizures and disasters is left behind. Therefore good things stay for a long time in private collections, museum collections grow. Interest in culture makes it economically meaningful to establish private museums on the basis of the best collections, and custom demand increases the interest in antiques in an interior that is unique and can be combined with modern solutions. The conclusion is simple: the market will have a tendency to rise above the bank deposits, and in some segments, such as Chinese art, will generate significant revenue in the coming years.
Our life is now much faster: we have time to do a lot of things every day, but can hardly withstand three-hour performance. What is the reason for this?
The reason is that the time value becomes one of the most important and sought-after values the twenty-first century.