A verdant paradise for humans and machines

A verdant paradise for humans and machines

The second PlayLab at the USM WorkHouse was the most playful, the most social, and the greenest yet. No wonder, when a Lego designer, a landscape architect and a video game developer are playing ping-pong together.

In the middle of the lush lawn, nine young people are running around a table tennis table. Every time they hit the ball, they yell out a vision of the future that scares them: “Viral epidemics!” “Climate change!” Then the direction changes, and they all start laughing even louder. Now it’s about positive ideas for the future. Maia Garau calls this game Future Ping-Pong. The game evolved spontaneously during a lunch break at the second PlayLab, and Garau, leading strategist at the design and storytelling agency tellart, is overjoyed about it. It condenses everything that USM had in mind when the PlayLabs were planned for the USM WorkHouse: a group of adventurous people, from a range of disciplines, playfully pondering the future of labour.

For two days, the participants brooded over the questions that Garau had assigned them. What are current trends that will determine the future? What kind of jobs will people have? What properties will they need for these jobs? What will their work environment look like? For participants in the second PlayLab it was clear: in the future, we won’t work in traditional offices, but rather in the forest, or simply outside on the grass – like here in the grounds of the USM WorkHouse. But it’s not only idyllic Brandenburg that inspired their green vision of the future. The expertise of Bernhard König – architect and landscape designer, who provides green infrastructure for cities and office spaces with his company green4cities – definitely had a strong influence on them as well.

In their closing statement, the group goes even further: responsibility towards the planet, and the human beings who live on it, will play a big role in the future. Working together and caring for one another will bring new meaning to our lives. This also holds for the relationship between humans and machines, often otherwise seen as conflictual or even threatening. “Machines can teach us to think further, and to test out the unimaginable,” says game developer and designer Francis Tseng, who came out from New York especially for this PlayLab. “On the other hand, we can teach machines empathy. And in the end, that’s what will hold us together as a community.”

“These PlayLabs were eye-opening for me,” says Maia Garau from tellart. “The results were very human – even superhuman. It really gave me hope. Certainly it could also have something to do with the fact that we had creative participants. In the second PlayLab, for example, we had an artist, three architects, a Lego designer, a video game developer and a PR person. Those are all professional categories that have an optimistic outlook built-in. They really believe that the work they do can change the world.”

Laughing and completely breathless after the game of Future Ping-Pong, the participants head back to the WorkHouse. Labour? They just sorted it out. Now it’s time to go for a swim in the lake. Together, on bicycles, through the forest.