John Eynon ponders the nature of reality, life imitating art and embracing change in an ever-changing digital world
Once in a lifetime…
“And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!”
… And you may ask yourself
Am I right? Am I wrong?
And you may say to yourself
‘My God! What have I done?’”
– Talking Heads – Once in a Lifetime
What is reality?
Or what is your perception of reality? What do you base it on? How do you know what you’re seeing is correct, right and the truth?
I watched an episode of the classic detective series Morse a few days ago. This was from 1990, remember! The villain had hacked police databases and changed the facts and thus their perception of reality. Thirty years later, here we are, and the question I started with is even more valid. Look at a screen, watch a video, an animation, look at some outputs, the news even. Are they reality or just some virtual creation with some CGIs and a blue stage screen? How do you know the difference? Fake news, fake facts, fake outputs. Beware!
A dream of stars
When I was a young lad (and yes it was several centuries ago, when I had long curly blonde hair, rumour has it I was design manager for the pyramids, but this is a purely malicious lie) I fed on a diet of science fiction and ideas – Fireball XL5, Stingray, Dr Who, UFO, Space Patrol and many more, Asimov, Clarke, Poul Anderson, Heinlein, Out of the Unknown to name but a few. I would read under the bed covers at night by torchlight and my parents had to confiscate the torch to get me to sleep.
Life now imitates those ideas and is even stranger!
The Sex Olympics, 1968 – Depicted shocking reality TV long before Big Brother, Love Island and TOWIE.
Videodrome, 1980 – In the same vein, developed the themes of video virtual digital reality and the crossover to real reality with violent consequences, as well as the warping of truth and features a young Debbie Harry to boot.
2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968 – A year before the first moon landing, showed our aspirations for the stars long before we ever left the earth. IMHO still the best SF film of all time, along with Blade Runner, 1982.
Start Trek original series, 1966 – Showed ‘iPads’ before Steve Jobs (b1955) and Jonathan Ive (b1967) had even thought of Apple.
Reality is stranger than fiction
Much of what we experience now was imagined long ago by people with extraordinary foresight, clarity, imagination and vision. Even a decade ago some of what we take for granted now was science fiction in the minds of some. We have yet to understand some of the darker melodies, with life on the periphery, that come with this new world, where open data can be used for malicious intent – enter the hackers, blackmailers, cyber thieves, bullies, worms and trojans and the rest with the dark web.
Humankind is ingenious at finding bad uses for good things.
But in these ever-changing times, how can we hope to keep up? Faced by so many challenges, how can we respond?
Are we missing the point?
But for me, my dear people, the overarching challenge remains just the same.
I deal with the supply chain every day. Most can barely engage with a CDE let alone anything else. (If you’re wondering what the hell is a CDE, see me afterwards).
I hear of architects still working in 2D, just starting to model in 3D and refusing to share their models. I hear of contractors being asked for “BIM” by their clients, not understanding what they’re asking for, not because of the benefits we all talk about but because they need to tick a box in a funding audit.
Our blind spot still seems to be the industry of 4m people. How many have we reached? How many have begun their digital transformation? How many even realise they really need to do something? Where are the mass training programmes that we need, subsidised to reduce the costs involved, both for SMEs and clients? In all seriousness, how can a small or micro SME be expected to take several days away from the coalface and pay several hundred pounds, if not thousands, for a few days’ training and a badge?
Clients drive demand. SMEs are the engine room that delivers. Both sectors need our full attention and support.
And again, I’m amazed that this isn’t on more people’s agendas.
Finishing with the end in mind
So, to conclude, there is no question that in time the built environment and the industry of millions that supports it will be fully digitised. It really is just a question of time. But how many will leave the industry because they’re disillusioned with the way it is before then? How many careers will end or change direction because they didn’t have the digital skills to continue to develop? How many businesses will go under because they couldn’t or wouldn’t keep up with the pace of digital change?
Change is happening now on a scale never seen before. Our choice is to embrace it or be engulfed by it. To have a degree of control over our destiny or hand it over to someone else. Your call as always – over to you!
John Eynon is an aging and argumentative architect, design manager and BIM champ. If you’ve been affected by what you’ve read then there is a helpline available – 0800-etoffyourassanddosomethingtochangeourindustry!
Open Water Consulting