“You can teach yourself just about anything now for the cost of a computer and your time.” (Maker Movement Manifesto by Mark Hatch) but how do you decide which to prioritise? It’s hard to know which skills will serve us well in the future and which will become redundant.
I used a future scoping exercise, considering, ‘What if?’ scenarios and chose 2 extreme cases on either end of the technology spectrum. The first imagines a high-tech future, with robots taking over. The second looks at a low-tech future, where an energy crisis or economic crash results in a back-to-basics lifestyle.
Both scenarios appear far fetched, but either are possible:
Scenario 1: Robots taking over
We are told, “the ability of machines to think and behave like the human brain – is about to advance faster than anyone thought possible. … what’s happened in the last five years has really caught us off guard. We’re not prepared for this kind of progress. We’re on the cusp of machines being able to do mental tasks the way that machines have been doing physical tasks about 200 years ago. And it’s going to have profound effects on the economy.” (Could A Robot Do My Job?, BBC News 2015)
Scenario 2: Back to basics
We’re increasing our reliance on the internet and electricity, so we are vulnerable to attacks and power cuts. What if the economy, the Internet or the power supply crashed? The equipment we rely on is now so specialised, most of us couldn’t mend or rebuild it.
Either scenario is possible, but it’s not clear if either of them are likely to happen. There could be a mixture of both, with widespread poverty limiting access to resources for some, while the rich benefit from technological advances. Or, society could move in the high-tech direction first, which could lead to the other.
In both scenarios, there is a place for traditional crafts. They would be highly valued in a low-tech future, where skills such as gardening, weaving and candle making would be in demand. And the same creative pursuits could also be important if robots take over routine work.
To become more resourceful, I’ve started learning traditional craft techniques and get a lot of satisfaction knitting jumpers. The intrinsic benefits make the effort worthwhile, regardless of what happens in the future.
I am determined to make more of the things I would normally buy. Even if ready-made versions work out cheaper if I factor in my time, handmade is often better because it expands our capabilities and means we are less dependent on what is available in the shops.