The Future of Happiness
The aim of this speculative service design project was to develop a future service for Telefonica Alpha, that will help them to understand and engage with new understandings of happiness in the future.
Through our research we found that one of the biggest barriers to happiness was a lack of self-understanding and self-compassion. The people we interviewed acknowledged that self-understanding is a difficult journey and one that some people find too difficult, whether through having difficulties with their mental health, lacking opportunities to talk about their own experiences or simply not realising they don’t truly understand themselves. These issues are compounded by our natural tendency towards self- criticism, criticising and blaming ourselves much more regularly than we congratulate ourselves.
We believe that self-understanding is key to happiness. Without self-belief, self-knowledge and self-compassion people struggle to thrive. Phillip Jones, Mental Health Advocate, says: ‘’I spend my life trying to do things for other people, but I realize I need to care for myself as well. I find self-love very hard and it is something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to realize’.’
We also found that when we’re able to understand ourselves we’re also able to gain empathy, communicate effectively, and forge strong relationships with others. However, understanding and being kind to ourselves often isn’t a priority. We’re much more familiar with empathising with other people.
Yet we know that self-understanding isn’t always easy in the modern world where competing demands, communication platforms and technology can leave us with many different selves to mediate between and as technology advances we anticipate that in the future we’ll have many more selves to understand.
In the present day we recognise that people are increasingly losing sight of who they are. We know that societal pressures on identity are all around us, these can lead us to project an idealised image of ourselves: the perfect worker, the perfect parent, the ‘best’ friend. Social media further allows us to hone and carefully curate this image: funny me on Whatsapp, social me on Facebook, cultured me on Instagram, and beyond this data is be-ing collected on us everywhere. From the phone calls we make, the journeys we take, products we buy to what shampoo we prefer - a digital imprint of ourselves is continuously being built, some of it in our control and some of it not. If this is the case in 2018, we wondered-where will we be in 2035?
By 2035 we know that technology such as Blockchain will be ubiquitous, making data storage much more comprehensive than it has ever been. The internet of things will be intelligently gathering, storing and sharing data on every aspect of our lives, from how we like our toast to how often we use the loo! Artificial Intelligence will be fuelling machine learning, with algorithms improving performance across sectors and robots working alongside humans. Biological data will be gathered from an implanted chip and phones will have been replaced with bionic contact lenses, allowing us to access digital content in augmented reality. In this landscape, we questioned, how will people maintain a sense of self?
SO HOW MIGHT WE CREATE SELF-UNDERSTANDING AND EMPATHY IN THE FUTURE WHERE THERE ARE MULTIPLE DATA SELVES?
The aim of the service is to help users successfully mediate between their different selves, gain understanding and ultimately self-empathy and compassion. We hope it will increase happiness in the future.
So, we created Metaself. A service for 2035 that allows people to meet their ‘yous’. Using augmented reality the user can download Metaself and access a catalogue of their different selves. Each self will have the personality and demeanour of that version of the user in real life, displaying the intricate differences between them as a ‘mum’ and them as a ‘boss’, of what their ‘citizen self’ is like and how their ‘health self’ differs from their ‘emo-tional self’. The user will be able to select which versions of themselves they’d like to chat with in a one hour virtual session.
‘Health’ and ‘emotions’ are obligatory, so the user can directly see the impact of their life choices on their health and emotions. Using artificial intelligence, the Metaself programme will then direct the user through the session. The first forty minutes will be for the user to have a discussion with their ‘selves'. This may be around something they’re concerned about, a decision they need to make or a general conversation about their lives and who they are. After this point the programme will talk the user through the steps of nonviolent communication, prompting them to reflect, set goals and be compassionate.