Future Digest - October 12th
H&M Looop system
In this week’s Future Digest we explore digital disruption as algorithms are blamed (again) for making the wrong decision and both the RAND Corporation and The World Economic Forum identify misinformation as a threat to democracy. Brands are transitioning towards a circular economy with new stores from IKEA and H&M that recycle, remake and resell products. Finally, new standards are being set around what exactly bioplastic is and fungi are the basis for a new vegan leather that has the support of industry leaders.
In the UK an algorithm was blamed for misguiding future housing development. This is the second time this year that an algorithm (rather than a person or organisation) is being blamed for mistakes. The first time was with the disaster of predicted school grades earlier this summer.
H&M has unveiled Looop to customers. The machine cleans garments and shreds them into fibers, which are then spun into new yarn, which is knitted into new garments. The system doesn’t use any water or chemicals and the process is designed to have a lower environmental footprint than making clothes from virgin materials.
Bioplastics have caused confusion since their inception as it isn’t clear for all bioplastic materials how and how fast they break down. The British Standards Institute is set to change this and has stated that in the UK, to be classed as biodegradable, plastic will have to break down into organic matter and carbon dioxide in the open air within two years.
In the US, tensions are rising ahead of the November election. Across the country increased activity by unofficial militia has been noted ahead of the polls. The FBI also folded a plot by the Wolverine Watchmen to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor of Michigan.
Bolt Threads, a Silicon Valley startup, is using a special kind of fiber made from mycelium, the thread-like roots of mushrooms, to create a vegan leather-like material called “Mylo”. Brands such as Adidas, Stella McCartney, Kering and Lulu Lemon have already endorsed Bolt and announced future partnerships.
IKEA will open its first secondhand store later this year in Sweden’s ReTuna mall, a retail centre completely made up of resale stores. The new store will sell previously owned furniture and home goods that have been refurbished.
Researcher are increasingly turning to analysing voice data to identify medical conditions. So far scientists have developed algorithms through machine learning that have shown success in terms of recognising dementia, depression, autism spectrum disorder and even heart disease. Now an Israeli firm Vocalis says they can use voice data to detect covid. In the future Siri or Alexa might become frontline medical workers.
The RAND institute just released a report that explored election interference through misinformation. They concluded to have found credible evidence of interference in the 2020 election in Twitter communities. Simultaneously research by the World Economic Forum on infodemic and deep fakes considers these future threats to democracy.
Virgin Hyperloop One, the American transportation company looking to turn the wild high-speed transportation concept into a reality, has announced it is planning to build a $500 million certification center in West Virginia. The hyperloop system, as imagined by the company, will transport passengers through a vacuum tube at over 600 mph, slashing travel times in half compared to air travel.
Esports company Skillshot and mental health organization Rise Above the Disorder (RAD) have partnered to offer players in-game therapy sessions. This further points to the direction of gaming becoming a layered media channel where different types of media come together such as social media, entertainment and advertising.
In the circular economy there is no waste. Now is the time to start planning for your products’ end of life. Will you get into the resell game like Gucci or will you up-cycle old products? Like H&M Looop develop an experience that involves the consumer.
Expect more legislation that prescribes what can be labeled biodegradable, sustainable, regenerative, etc. Ensure that your manufacturing process meets the legal requirements in order not to be seen as greenwashing.
As technology provides us with ever more insight into our health, there is an opportunity for brands to become health partners. Explore how consumers want to establish this relationship with you, what role you want to play in this health tech ecosystem and who you could partner with.
Hyper-speed travel such as Hyperloop has the possibility to completely disrupt society as we know it. It would makes us less dependent on air travel, it could reconfigure supply chains and the increased mobility could redraw the map of where people choose to live. For now the monitor the progress of these plans since operations are not supposed to begin before 2030.