As a software developer, I would work with:
- QA team members who would come up with use cases as a way to determine what test cases to create to test the software.
- Marketing team members who would come up with user personas as a way to determine who might want a product or service.
If you think about a story, it's really about the trials and tribulations (i.e., use cases) of the characters in the story (i.e., personas). If the genre is science fiction, it often takes place in a future world that we either dread or aspire to. So it's not that much of a stretch to envision Autodesk developing some stories that illustrate the future of making and how software tools will play a role in that future.
FOUR is the newest installment of stories developed by Autodesk's Strategic Futures project, where we use science fiction to explore how technology that we are working on today can and should shape the future. Storytelling has played an extremely important role in the development of human culture — since before we could even communicate through speech — yet it is still underutilized by technologists as a way to communicate new ideas.
In the words of celebrated production designer Alex McDowell: "Stories are not frivolous, they can transform how we think about the way we do our work." By taking ideas that are nearly in our grasp and creating relatable narratives from them, we hope to give both the audience and the scientists a common point by which to connect and create a shared vision of the future we can collectively build toward.
At Autodesk, we see science fiction as a powerful tool for exploring the future of design and technology as it relates to us as humans. It can provide us with a common frame of reference to collectively develop and engage with an idea. We are not trying to predict the future; rather, we seek to create a shared space with enough visual fidelity to inspire discussion on the future we want to live in and create. We can then use this vision to inform and direct the work we do today.
With that in mind, we developed FOUR, a collection of short stories written by former Autodesk summer intern, Caroline Brewer, with illustrations and concept art by Caroline and former Autodesk summer intern, Marianne Khalil, both of whom are studying illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design.
FOUR gives us a window into the four worlds of our main characters: Winnie, Ves, Shepherd, and Muchene — where each world pushes further and further out on our time horizon. Through these characters' eyes, we get a glimpse of how things like synthetic biology, generative design, deep-learning machines, and climate change might affect how we live, work, and design.
Thanks to Senior Research Engineer, Evan Atherton, for passages contained in this blog post.
Purposeful storytelling is alive in the lab.