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Home » An Internet Without Screens Might Look Like This: Tom Uglow at TED Talks (Transcript)

An Internet Without Screens Might Look Like This: Tom Uglow at TED Talks (Transcript)

Tom Uglow – Designer 

I’d like to start by asking you all to go to your happy place, please. Yes, your happy place, I know you’ve got one even if it’s fake. OK, so, comfortable? Good.

Now I’d like to you to mentally answer the following questions. Is there any strip lighting in your happy place? Any plastic tables? Polyester flooring? Mobile phones? No? I think we all know that our happy place is meant to be somewhere natural, outdoors — on a beach, fireside. We’ll be reading or eating or knitting. And we’re surrounded by natural light and organic elements. Natural things make us happy. And happiness is a great motivator; we strive for happiness. Perhaps that’s why we’re always redesigning everything, in the hopes that our solutions might feel more natural. So let’s start there — with the idea that good design should feel natural.

Your phone is not very natural. And you probably think you’re addicted to your phone, but you’re really not. We’re not addicted to devices, we’re addicted to the information that flows through them. I wonder how long you would be happy in your happy place without any information from the outside world. I’m interested in how we access that information, how we experience it. We’re moving from a time of static information, held in books and libraries and bus stops, through a period of digital information, towards a period of fluid information, where your children will expect to be able to access anything, anywhere at any time, from quantum physics to medieval viticulture, from gender theory to tomorrow’s weather, just like switching on a lightbulb — Imagine that.

Humans also like simple tools. Your phone is not a very simple tool. A fork is a simple tool. And we don’t like them made of plastic, in the same way I don’t really like my phone very much — it’s not how I want to experience information.

I think there are better solutions than a world mediated by screens. I don’t hate screens, but I don’t feel — and I don’t think any of us feel that good about how much time we spend slouched over them. Fortunately, the big tech companies seem to agree. They’re actually heavily invested in touch and speech and gesture, and also in senses — things that can turn dumb objects, like cups, and imbue them with the magic of the Internet, potentially turning this digital cloud into something we might touch and move.

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