We are presenting a paper at CHI 2013 that suggests that myself (Conor), Ben, Shaun and Dan are robots sent back from a dystopian robot-controlled future to celebrate the strands of current HCI research that are essential in bringing about that robot singularity. This paper may initially seem frivolous, or a joke. We wanted to explain here that this paper is no less serious or valuable than any other paper at the conference. The paper is inspired by the words of science fiction writer JG Ballard, and we believe it is interesting for a number of reasons:
1) This paper is the first instance that we are aware of where science fiction has been published as a paper at CHI. It is not a paper about science fiction (there have been some of those), it is, itself, a work of science fiction. It is a reflection on the present trends in interactive technology research in light of an imagined future.
2) All design is carried out for an imagined future. However, this future is rarely referred to specifically, nor acknowledged as an influence on design. Instead, we have experience-centered design – design that is specifically influenced by past experiences, by forms of narrative that explain how things have come to be, not by narratives that explore how they might progress.
3) The imagined future that collectively drives HCI research is almost entirely positivist. It is based on the assumption that tomorrow will be better than today, and that science and technology are the means to make it so. This is in marked contrast to how most people view the world – certainly people who work in other creative fields.
4) Hiroshima and Josef Mengele shattered the trust that science will inherently improve the world. The moon landings shattered the belief that it would at least make it more interesting. Current generations are growing up knowing that they will more than likely never enjoy the things that their parents had.
5) Given this reality, it is perverse to assume that all of these things we are designing and building will unquestionably contribute to a better future.