Changing the world for the better at FFD16

Pinja Virtanen22.9.2016FranticReading time 6 min

Revolutionary advances in technology are often dubbed as disruptive. However, as we saw at Frantic Future Day 2016, many of these so-called disruptions are extremely beneficial for the people brave enough to welcome them.

At the fourth annual Future Day, we had the pleasure of hearing from a variety of specialist speakers and panelists, who approached the overarching theme of humanizing tech from their unique perspectives. With all of three days as a frantimone under my belt, I set out to solve how technology can be harnessed to drive positive change in the world.

Connecting people

So I may have borrowed Nokia’s iconic slogan there, but I can explain. From a connected exercise bike with on-demand spinning classes to brand new social shopping functionalities at, many of the best technological innovations that were introduced at Future Day reduce the barriers of human contact and bring people closer to one another. As our brilliant panelist Tiina Zilliacus pointed out, there is no point in producing technology for technology’s sake. Instead, just as Nokia’s age-old tagline seems to suggest, sometimes the best technology is nothing but an invisible bridge connecting people to one another.

"Sometimes the best technology is nothing but an invisible bridge connecting people to one another.”

In her presentation, Kaisa Soininen from Yogaia ran through a handful of groundbreaking health tech examples, ranging from the anonymous peer-to-peer support platform Heimo to the mobile cancer clinic Noona. These services demonstrate that health tech can be used for both preventative and curative purposes, ultimately proving that such solutions not only improve lives but also have the potential to save them. However, as Kaisa emphasized, these inventions would amount to very little without the human factor: in order to adopt such services, the user needs to build an authentic connection with either the technology or other users – be it experts or peers.

Artificial intelligence for real humans

Aside from bridging the physical distance between people, technology has also given birth to a new breed of intelligence. Call it robotics, artificial intelligence or machine learning, the rising popularity of such highly advanced technologies typically relies on one of two things: a) our willingness to treat inanimate objects as living things, or b) our desire to automate everything that can be automated. Whether we’re talking about a robot for recycling, simple office work or elderly care, due to a number of coinciding recent developments that Ella Bingham from Aalto University covered in her presentation, 2015 was truly a breakthrough year for artificial intelligence.

Although researchers have raised some valid concerns about singularity, i.e. artificial superintelligence that far exceeds human intelligence, our expert panelist, robotics expert Cristina Andersson assured that currently, the more pressing issue relates to resource allocation between machines and people. In other words, while there are some things that artificial intelligence can do astoundingly well, including image, speech, and text recognition, there still are some things that should be left to humans, at least for now. One such example is the strangely entertaining, yet hilariously nonsensical AI-written short film Sunspring, which Ella introduced in her presentation.

Learning to save the world

Another interesting theme that crept up in several discussions during the day was learning. As our first speaker, Learning Consultant Tuomo Loukomies explained, learning a new skill is much easier than unlearning an existing one; once a new connection has been created in the neural circuit, it is extremely difficult to erase. As a great example of the barriers to learn, Zalando’s UX Lead Juho Paasonen suggested that the reason why augmented reality hasn’t yet broken through in the fashion industry is not technology, but people. Although the necessary technology has existed for some time now, there seems to be little interest from people to use it in the shopping context.

"Learning a new skill is much easier than unlearning an existing one.”

While the resistance to adopt new retail technologies may seem like a non-issue, according to Funzi’s Founder and Chief Evangelist Aape Pohjavirta, the unwillingness to learn new habits may actually result in the rapid demise of the humankind. As he put it, people are not only lazy but also stupid, and so even though we know that climate change is rapidly destroying the world, we refuse to make the necessary changes to mitigate the damage. Although there are no easy solutions to these so-called wicked problems, Aape suggested that exponential learning, or “changing the world lots of learners at a time”, may just be our only hope.

“A designerly way of doing”

As Aape stated, a great – if not the only – way to overcome resistance is to make better things instead of simply making existing things better. Coincidentally, the ultimate takeaway from FFD16 boils down to the very concept of design thinking, which also happened to be the topic of Design Strategy Consultant Sondre Ager-Wick’s workshop. As Sondre explained, in all its simplicity, this “designerly way of doing” refers to a user-centric approach in which products and services are created to address real problems that are perceived as severe enough to call for solutions.

"Don’t make things better, make better things.”

And what a workshop it was! During the afternoon, I got to observe closely as eight groups designed solutions for a variety of important questions including how to maintain healthy habits and how to improve human relationships. After a few hours of brainstorming and countless of iteration rounds, the groups took the stage to present their prototypes to the audience. From a holistic wellness-monitoring smart pet to a gamified social anxiety-reducing application, it was truly amazing to see what the groups came up within such a short timeframe.

FFD16 over and out

If I had to describe Future Day with one word, it would have to be ‘wow’. From the world-class speakers to our expert panelists and fantastic guests, we could not have asked for a better crowd to spend the day with. On behalf of the whole Frantic crew, thank you for making FFD16 the great success it was! We look forward to seeing you next year with yet another day of thought-provoking ideas and inspiring discussions.

Couldn’t make it to FFD16? Watch the seminar talks here or sign up to our mailing list to be the first one to hear about the next Future Day.