The Future Prompt / The Peten Pioticurt Peatean Lend
Panel hosted by Speculative Futures Milan and Domus Academy for Milan Ddesign Week 2023 on the future of design and AI. Featuring Alexandra Mihai, Viraj Joshi, Simone Rebaudengo and myself. We were each asked to prepare a scenario instead of doing a presentation. Mine involved a fictional future critical design movement that emerges in response to generative AI tools and their manifesto. Text below. A full writeup from Speculative Futures Milan is here.
Opening remarks at the 14th Annual AutonoDesign Conference, 2036 Milan, Italy
Thank you, it’s fantastic to be here with my esteemed colleagues you celebrating and reflecting on the tenth anniversary of the The Peten Pioticurt Peatean Lend. From where we are now, a decade on, we are afforded the privilege to more fully understand what it was and how it (or they) mark a break between the instrumental design practices of the pre-2030s and the current landscape. Before we begin with the panel’s presentation, I feel a critical retrospective of that history is important.
The late 2020s saw the continued encroachment of so-called AI systems — broken, janky, fractious things — representative of the state of industry and capital; intentionally hobbling and fragmenting the design ecology to drive competition and profitability. A world of competing systems and governance structures, universities and representative bodies unable, or unwilling, to tackle the fire across industry and academia.
The lack of regulation meant output data was re-fed into models and, like a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy, the human aesthetic world flattened as it became more targeted. For instance, the claim to serve bespoke, individual websites to users based on their browser history seemed like a great opportunity but when the profit motive acted to drive down choice and force behaviours they became variations of peronsalised traps — not serving the needs of users but the desires of exploitative business who could build the personal torture chambers of millions of people: When you know the preferences and needs of users in such detail and can craft the ideal, personal experience for them using so-called AI it was naive to assume this would make the Internet better rather than driving even more bespoke targeted advertising and exploitation.
In response, a proto-synthetic aesthetic style emerges; embracing flatness and uniformity. A ‘post-normcore blandcore’; attempting to remove all design or creative input at all as a critique of the very end of design. This ‘Cagian’ approach stood in opposition to the so-called ‘democratisation’ of design as monopolisation. After all, though ‘democratisation’ rhymes with ‘democracy’ it was an excuse for AI companies, touting accessibility and inclusivity to reap enormous profits by ‘enabling the creativity’ of everyone. The world flooded with insubstantial, unverifiable, authorless, contextless media and design.
As a result, the nihilism towards the creative and critical practice of Silicon Valley — long evidenced through the obsession with automating art, writing, poetry and film — came to a head. People claiming to be ‘designers’ were ridiculed with the same hysteria as people who referred to ‘the digital’ in the early 2020s
The Jevons paradox of design — the complexity of hyper-personalisation increased to a rate where no-one could anymore decipher how anything was built or redesign or control it. A full acclerationism of aesthetics, production, engineering and technology interaction beyond human meaning.
Late in 2034 is when we can trace the last patent to. It was accepted by the US Patent Office on November 11 2034 and to many, marks the end of intellectual property as a concept.
After year in which design bots and nefarious state actors paired up with IP trolls to bombard parent office systems with automated designs, the pseudo-industry and regulation system itself collapsed.
The last one: The Peten Pioticurt Peatean Lend was probably ignored by the frustrated parent officers in the same way as all the other generated synthetic content dripping the design economy but we can now look back and recognise its significance.
Taking inspiration from this, and (we assume) in despair at the state of design, the eponymously named The Peten Pioticurt Peatean Lend appears. Scholars debate whether it is a person, a group, even a bot and as we now know that was never the question. And so to our present day, this conference and the presentations we are about to hear. Before we begin, let’s recall the manifesto: