keiichi-hyper-realityOriginally published via Singaporean Arts Organisation, Meshminds. Titled ‘In Conversation with Matt O’Neill, Futurist‘.

What inspires you about your work as a Futurist?

Far from being the soothsayer, staring into the misty distance, my view is that our future is a function of the things we do today: it’s not unchangeable, and we all play our part.

For example, look at some of today’s trends. The Silicon Valley mindset promises a borderless world in which quality goods and services become abundant and low cost. Simultaneously, we’re witnessing the rise of so-called ‘populism’, which seemingly aims to create new barriers between people. The virtual and physical worlds are clearly at odds with one another. It’s exciting beyond belief to explore the developments and narratives that shape our world; and, hopefully provide clients with a few signposts along the way.

Eclectic doesn’t begin to describe the work I’m asked to do. In the past year, clients have included CEO leadership networks, manufacturers, software businesses, trade associations, banks, house builders and more. I’m particularly excited about a forthcoming project, which will help a media client create a future business strategy for the next 10 years.

How do you think digital art has the power to change the world?

What an interesting and timely question. I was debating creativity with a photographer friend recently. He believes that level of creativity in society has decreased across his 25- year career. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Art and creativity are about ideas. Ideas are the only resource that expands rather than depletes the more we use them. The rise of social channels such as YouTube, Instagram, Facebook etc. has enabled ideas sharing on an unprecedented scale. Add in lower cost access to creative tools and we’ve created a global creative hotbed. One idea feeds the next and so on. My hope for digital art forms is that they can serve to create better connections and shared experiences for people. In the age of algorithms and filter bubbles, we need this more than ever!

What are your dreams of how emerging technologies can change the way we make and enjoy art?

Again, so topical! Despite a few false starts, it seems the reality of AR/VR is set to meet the hype. Apple look set to bet big on AR with the launch of the iPhone 8 in September. It will come with ‘ARKit’, a ‘framework that facilitates developers to create Augmented Reality experiences.’ Just as the original App Store saw an explosion of creativity in 2007, I’d bet on a similar exponential growth pattern here. Microsoft is also throwing its hat in the ring with their ‘HoloLens’ technology. And of course, Facebook started early with Oculus: all the big players are betting on AR/VR taking off.

From a creative perspective, things start to get really interesting when we add in haptic (touch) and/or olfactory (smell) and temperature sensors too. Imagine how sculptors could create work that simply hasn’t been possible until now! It doesn’t stop there. I’ve little doubt that by 2030, we’ll even be able to share our thoughts with one another via technologies like Neuralink (being developed by Elon Musk) etc. And don’t get me started on how artists could collaborate with Artificial Intelligence – that’s probably for another article. We are living in extraordinary times!