On 3 October 2019, more than fifty business, arts and technology students from Aalto gathered to present their vision on what our possible future will be like in the ‘2040+Helsinki=?’ event, organised as a part of the IDBM Challenge*. The pressing issues related to our current ways of organising production and living were addressed in ten pitches prepared and presented by the students themselves.
These forecasts were crafted through the lens of design thinking. This is a user-centered framework that is used to address problems in complex and networked settings, and which emphasises the importance of finding the most important problem to solve. By guiding to think outside the realms of a single discipline, design thinking is the perfect way to focus on the ideal state of Helsinki in 2040. In order to identify the flaws in our current system, we need to be able to decouple it through taking advantage of transdisciplinary knowledge in the society. Using this valuable human capital, we can decide which problems to choose – and how to solve them.
What is the future of work, consumption, health and food like?
According to the students, by 2040, the changes in the demographic structure of our society demand a shift in the way we view our work and careers. Both adaptive as well as lifelong learning will have to be incorporated in our lives as careers stretch out and technology changes rapidly. In addition, we will need new platforms for finding jobs and maintaining our employability skills.
The future of shops and shopping was another big theme explored in the pitches. The necessity to have circular economy is evident as our current rate of consumption is a burden to the environment. Shops in the future will be an experience incorporating high tech solutions. Fashion will focus on local and sustainable production methods when designers, users and other stakeholders come together in a co-creative and circular ecosystem. Sharing economy will also be another new normal. Being able to share products will help the environment and save us from the need to store our belongings.
In 20 years time, closely monitoring our health using technology will save us and the government money and time. By watching some key indicators such as our heart rates, an app will prevent serious illness from occurring. When faced with an unidentified common cold, we will use another app to identify the condition based on our past medical records and a questionnaire akin to that a GP would present. We will treat this illness with an in-home kit, provided by the government, and an in-home medicine delivery service.
Despite drastic technological changes, food will still be an essential part of our everyday in twenty years' time. However, we need to no longer engage in dull chores such as grocery shopping. Technology will take care of this for us through automated home delivery systems. The rate of current food waste is unacceptable, so in 2040, clever AI will help us purchase the optimal amount of groceries based on our habits, aiming to minimise food waste. This technology also incorporates a reward system that incentivises us to waste less, instead of the current model that encourages us to buy more.
The students think that the vision for Helsinki in 2040 is bright, but there is still a long way to get there. Radical changes are needed in our mindsets and incentive structures to make a more sustainable future happen. Yet, the ideas and largely the technical knowledge to implement them already exist.
‘Creativity is the key in unleashing this promising future. With a bit of creativity in implementation, perhaps we will see one or two of the ideas presented above come to fruition in twenty years time,’ said Tuomas Auvinen, the Dean of the School of Arts, Design and Architecture.
* IDBM Challenge is a four week course organised as a part of International Design Business Management –teaching in Aalto University. The course introduces its participants to different tools and methods that can be used in innovation. A key takeaway from the course is the concept of design thinking, and how it helps in solving complex problems. The course takers were immersed in this concept through lectures, workshops and group work. The highlight of the course was the IDBM Challenge day, where ten teams of arts, business and technology students presented their vision for Helsinki in 2040.
International Design Business Management is an Aalto University flagship program that helps its students harness the possibilities of transdisciplinary teamwork through solving real world challenges. The School of Business coordinates the IDBM Program. https://www.idbm.aalto.fi/about