Bread and Circuses

Are you familiar with the old saying ‘bread and circuses’? It’s the idea that entertainment (and full bellies) can pacify discontent and distract from the overlying and even obvious social issues. You may recognize this saying from the movie Gladiator with Russel Crowe, where bread and circuses was quite literally bread and circuses. Today however, the new bread and circuses come in many guises.

As I follow new developments in tech. and try to understand how this will affect our world, I’m often frustrated by the narrow focus of the phenomenal inventions I stumble across. In most cases, these focuses are either entertainment, or simply constructed through one specialty or skill. As a result, the product is a temporary solution or band aid application that suits only one industry. Unfortunately it’s  often too great an investment for professionals from different fields to collaborate across disciplines, but this is what we need.

As a writer who is primarily interested in technology, change and in a future with limitless potential, I’ve found myself surprised on many occasions that where change is expected, there is none. Looking back at history and its complexity, I can understand why our systems have been slow to change, but it’s been some time now that globalization has connected the previously disconnected and since the internet has provided access to information like never before. We have the perfect platform for significant change on a global basis, so why has it not happened?

What I am thinking of isn’t just electric cars like Tesla, or AI, or new VR platforms across industries, but something greater than this. The other day I was listening to a TED talks podcast “How AI can enhance our memory, work and social lives,” by Tom Gruber, the creator of Siri,and he pointed out that we use AI as a tool rather than as an assistant for collaboration. So not only should we be moving full speed ahead, but our work is no longer limited to just the human mind.

With these points, it’s easy to ask why there is not visible change in our day to day lives, and then to point out all the amazing tech. and then to repeat that same question, but this is a perspective from only one side of the equation. On the other hand, we have the people who are behind tech. innovation and the tech. movement.

What I thought was a movement as slow as the drifting of our continental plates, I now understand to be a frenzy of energy that is constantly pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable. During these past few weeks I’ve had the chance to meet some true visionaries in the tech world who are not so covered by big news. As I listen to their stories, I understand that change isn’t as easy as I expected it to be. Change isn’t welcomed warmly by all, and it’s something that must be introduced slowly into this stable climate (stable in this context at least!) but also with a constant urgency despite all the barriers.

When I arrived in Paris two weeks ago, my travels began with La Nuit Blanche and Miro Shot, the mixed reality band I’ve now covered twice. I began to catch up with Miros, or members of the Miro Shot collective, hours before the show. It’s not often that I get to meet so much talent and so many like minded individuals in one place. So what brought all these independently successful and talented individuals to band together to pursue something that has not been done before, is not necessarily understood or even demanded for at this stage of music and VAR?*

For over a year Miro Shot has grown from a few individuals, to an open sourced team. How does the industry react to a band that sits down its audience with VR headsets and sets them on an adventure that alternates between virtual landscapes and the live band playing in the studio? Why do the individuals behind Miro Shot pursue this challenge that doesn’t fit into the current structure? They have all come from very different backgrounds to create something completely new. This is a very real change, and I was able to watch the reactions to their show throughout the night. Before the shows, the audience had their doubts. When I speak to those who have not heard of Miro Shot or have yet to try VR, there is doubt. When the audience partakes in the Miro Shot show, they understand it, love it and want more.

One of my first questions to Miro Shot is why I could not search their name and find out all there is to know about them online. Jay Udo-Udoma, community director of Miro Shot, said that’s because it’s a movement, and it’s difficult to define a movement. Until they really know what it is and how it works, how can they share it with others?

That very same night I then meet Jerry Lieveld of DIFR, or Dare to DIFR if you want to give them a search online. It was Lieveld who invited me to the Wired Energy convention so I could have the opportunity to take a look at their products first hand.

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The first items I look at is a selection of hats made from recycled ties. As I touched each hat, sensors in the hat were activated and behind the display the story line of the making of the hat was initiated on a screen. When I tried the hat on and ran my hands over the material, it was not possible to feel the sensors under the fabric. Lieveld says the technology should be invisible, and the effect or benefit tangible.

Lieveld says that DIFR is working with “smart fabrics” and how to integrate them into designs. He also tells me about shoes they are working on in collaboration with another brand that will allow users to change the design of the shoe via an app. Lieveld says that today thousands of shoes go to waste because of overstock in varying pattern designs of the same product. There’s no need for this waste. As companies like DIFR evolve, collaborate with new brands, and invest in their own projects, the entire retail industry will go through its own technological revolution that will change the way we consume products. Will this be the end of constant consumerism of products and the beginning of consumerism in digital designs?

These are only two examples of the way technology is changing the way we interact, consume, and focus or diversify our attentions. Will technology continue to be the bread and circuses in the traditional sense, or will it allow us to work together, build awareness and finally cure our addiction to the consumption of goods? Will it open our eyes to the inequalities around the world and neutralize disparities, or widen the gap as our focus shifts to virtual utopias?

From Miro Shot to DIFR, we have everything we need to make a difference. Change has arrived on our doorstep, but it’s up to us to allow this change to influence culture with a positive and lasting imprint, or as a passing fad and a comma in history.

By @scifiannemarie


*VAR- virtual and augmented reality



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