Future of Safety
Change is constantly birthing new challenges – and in many cases, the new eludes the immediate controllability. The everyday life of individuals and communities is becoming increasingly complex, and the interaction of technological, social, ecological and scientific aspects makes it hard to identify or calculate problems and risks. This holds true not only for the digital transformation, but also for the ecological crisis, globalization, terrorism, and equally for the rather unforeseeable consequences of pandemics of all types.
There are ample reasons for fears and insecurities, and with them, a growing need for safety. Is our society changing from a "risk society", as described by the sociologist Ulrich Beck in 1986, to a society of fear? Not too long ago, the German Zukunftsinstitut referred to a "society on permanent alert", despite the fact that we allegedly live "in the safest of all times".
So things are not that bad after all? Are the worries and fears of many people merely the result of medial overheating? Or is this rather about readjusting several parameters of our existence to liberate ourselves from the "dictatorship" of a seemingly threatening present and develop new visions of the future, as Harald Welzer, sociologist and publisher of Futurzwei, suggests?
New lines of thought are called for – with design taking the lead as an innovative force and a pragmatic mediator between the disciplines. What can design provide to make life safer – for example, with regard to workplace security as well as cyber security in times of Big Data and cybercrime, and also in the domestic environment to keep control of the Smart Home? What does the ideal passenger cabin look like in the era of autonomous driving, and how are the controls designed to ensure optimum safety? What can safety design contribute to environmental protection by using new materials and manufacturing methods – and what can urban planning contribute to the design of living spaces to counteract social disruptions in a transforming society?
With their human-centered approach and work methods, designers are instrumental in ensuring actual and perceived safety and thus play a key role in shaping people's trust in a future worth living in.