Are we human?

Are we human?

The best question that I had heard in a very long time was this: “Are we human?” It was the main topic of the 3rd Istanbul Design Biannual organized by İKSV. The 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial was entitled “ARE WE HUMAN? : The Design of the Species : 2 seconds, 2 days, 2 years, 200 years, 200,000 years” and explored the intimate relationship between the concepts of “design” and “human.”

On İKSV’s webpage, the following is written about the biannual: “With the aim of underlining the importance of design for production, economy, cultural interaction and quality of life, the Istanbul Design Biennial is open to all disciplines of the creative industries in major fields such as urban design, architecture, interior, industrial, graphic, new media and fashion design, as well as their subfields. The biennial aims to explore the products, creative ideas and discourses of the relevant fields and generate interactive relations within the society.” 

They did this with over 120,000 visitors, five venues, 70 projects, 250 participants and 50 countries.

However, the main question haunts me every day. Because I feel that there is something fundamentally wrong about how we design technology, society and cities – basically all the aspects of our lives. If our designs bring about so much pain and suffering, isn’t there something that needs to be changed?

The curators have this to say about the matter: Design is what makes the human. It is the basis of social life, from the very first artifacts to the exponential expansion of human capability. But design also engineers inequalities and new forms of neglect. More people than ever in history are forcibly displaced by war, lawlessness, poverty and the climate at the same time that the human genome and the weather are being actively redesigned. We can no longer reassure ourselves with the idea of “good design.” “Design needs to be redesigned.”

I could not agree with them more. Is this reality what comes natural to us? Is this who we are as humans?

 Just last week we got news from all around the world and from our homeland that devastated us. We have created an oil-based economy, we have created devices to kill each other in millions of different ways, we have designed systems to keep big business alive while we know that they harm people. We choose to be cruel to each other and we choose to be cruel to nature. Each six months computers are getting twice as fast yet the main problems that we want them to solve remain the same. 

As humans, if we won’t ask different questions, technological advances will not produce different answers. If we use a computer to get us a 3D render of an ugly building that will use tons of cement and would destroy a neighborhood, the computer will give us the best option to do so. 

Let 2017 be a bit different. Let it be a year in which we ask different questions and use technology to the betterment of society and the world rather than personal satisfaction and wealth. We can always ask a computer to give us the best layout for thousands of solar panels instead of giving us an estimate of how deep we should drill to get more oil. 

Let us be more concerned with the question of “Are we human?” in 2017.