James Auger

This is the translation of the article by Yasmine Tashk that was originally written in french on the paper version of KSAT

A new particular form of design has developed in parallel of the technological advances of these last few years. This type of design doesn’t have a particular name but is decribed by those who practice it as design fiction or speculative design. It focuses on the complexity of human desires and raise fundamental questions regarding the type of future we want for ourselves.
About ten years ago, James Auger and Jimmy Loizeau made a big breakthrough by presenting to the world a miniaturized and discreet telephone in the shape of a tooth implant. One could install it during a small procedure while going to the dentist. The innovation was one more step to the telepatic dream. When I ask James if the project was ever produced, he answers that they hate it and that the idea is terrible. He explains me that the product wasn’t only a telephone implanted in a tooth but ratheer the ability of this object to raise questions on the possible intrusion of the technologies in our bodies in a close future. Is it want we wish for the next step of our evolution ? The presentation of this project has been presented in the news and has created an important debate. That’s how the first big project coming from the collaboration Auger/Loizeau was a big success.

Since then, many projects emerged and brought James to develop a thesis, started 3 years ago, at the Royal College of Arts in London on domestic robots. He uses the robot as a tool to develop his research. He focuses on 3 angles. First of all, he is interested by the myth of the humanoïd robot. Why modern societies always had this inexplicable dream to have a robot in their image. Then he explores the question to know how technologies become a product, based on an article by Bill Gates form 2007 that compared the state of the computer industry in the 70s with the robotic nowdays. James observe the success of computer and how, thanks to a friendly design and the expansion of Internet, they came into our homes and invaded our everyday lives. Finally, he explores how, through speculative design, technologies can be domesticated and tamed. Therefore he can imagine the next step and speculate on future products.

Along his researches, James notices that robots rarely come out of the scientific fairs or other event about new technologies. They are often placed in a window that we observe to see an unusual and spectacular phenomenon as we go to the circus. But when he asks the question to many engineers in robotic about the goal or the function of these robots in our everyday lives, he often faces silence.

In parallel to the stereotype of the humanoïd robot there is the one that the robot is here to make us gain time and work for us. But James consider this vision as a myth to abolish. He doesn’t think that in the actual outline robots can become mass products. We have to get rid of our predjudices and overpass them to reinvent and imagine a potential use of robots in our everyday lives.
I ask him what is his vision of the future. He talks about the exponential speed that the development of technologies is taking and how at this point the evolution crosses with many fields which make the global understanding of the field even more complicated to understand.

Moreover, a lot of people start to question the technological advances. He explains that his thoughts meet the ones of Baudrillard, a french philosopher that talked about automation and the robotisation of society. He points out the fact that the role of Humans decreases more and more. For example, we can see Amazon or Google that predict our researches or future needs. James have some trouble to accept an evolution in that sense because he considers that it’s going to hurt creativity, limit the freedom to think and reduce possibilities.
The paradigm is that it will potentially brings us closer to the idea presented by Ray Bradbury in one of his books where a future family escape from its intelligent house that does everything for them in order to go in vacantion and cook for themselves their own meals and do the dishes or else.
James believes that robots will enter into our lives from the backdoor, like computers entered our lives through Internet.

LIENS // LINKS :

Auger and Loizeau’s website