About Work Futur

Cyborgs Towards Utopia

Cyborgs Towards Utopia is a fiction inspired investigation into the effects of a blockchain based attention economy, using Virtual Reality as a research tool.

The starting point was a simple question: how can technology help make us more human?

Rather than designing in a classical speculative future, the context is a parallel reality known as Cytopia, borne out of a schism in the year 1998, and based largely upon internet inspired techno-utopianism. The world is characterised by three principles for technology:

Technology that helps us to be more human, rather than more efficient.

Technology driven by creative prowess, not market forces.

Technology that empowers optimistic thoughts, not hopeless anxiety.

Using fiction as a device, Cy Rus was able to develop a rich narrative for the world of Cytopia, which is currently taking form as a story entitled Cyborgs Towards Utopia. Research and development focused largely on exploring the interconnected existence of humans, animals and objects, which naturally led to Posthuman theory as purported by Harraway and Briadotti.

Posthuman workshops were held, transporting people to Cytopia using binaural recordings, sensory deprivation, physical relocation and role-play. After their arrival in Cytopia, participants were re-educated to follow a new set of values, allowing them to create and refine ideas for prototypes, discuss the key themes and indeed find their own voice and space to speculate effectively on desirable alternatives to the norm.

From these workshops, a host of artefacts were created that belong to another world, yet could exist in this one, including the premise for an attention based economic system. In order to further develop these ideas, a Virtual Reality prototype was created known as the MetaCog. This fictional device allows people to experience a world in which their attention really counts. This takes the form of a Virtual Reality game, built in Unity and C# for Google Cardboard, to test and model a blockchain based economic system that allows people to invest and see their return on attention (ROA) in real-time.

The VR prototype proved beneficial to devise the mechanics for a decentralised token backed currency that gives citizens the ability to monetise their attention online through direct investment, which like any type of investment may generate returns. Citizens may gain attention through the creation and indeed curation of content, in a decentralised world not monopolised by Facebook or Google.

Workshops and exhbitions helped to improve the overall model, allowing for experimentation with different dynamics to gather feedback. This research highlighted that a blockchain based currency linked to online attention drastically alters the behavioural incentives for consuming content. When informed of the new rules of the game, an individual's propensity to select and watch generic content was reduced, while niche topics gained significantly.

This project is a starting point in a continued exploration of how technology can make us more human, to further develop a Posthuman design process and explore what might have been, to suggest what still might be.