Life & Style

The future is now

Futurist, strategy and creative designer Monika Bielskyte says she never saw the world for what it was but what it could be made to be

There are those to live on dreams and there are those who bring their dreams alive. Monika Bielskyte is among those rare people who represent a practical combination of both.

Monika is a futurist, who prototypes culturally diverse, socially and environmentally engaged future world designs.

“I design futures for the entertainment and technology industries as well as cities and governments,” she says, over a chat before her talk at the DesignUp 2017 pre-event held recently in the city.

Her expansive LinkedIn profile describes her a “strategy and creative designer with focus on the future of content. I work to inspire people to see immersive media technology and digital formats of reality — (virtual reality) VR, (augmented reality) AR and (mixed reality) MR — as tools and spaces to expand the human potential.”

“Ultimately immersive media technology with VR, AR and MR will allow us to prototype virtually potential future scenarios and bring people into an imagined possible future space in such a way that we could never do with any previous media,” she says, beginning her description of the three main areas of her work.

“When it comes to films, I come in at the early stages where only the producer, director and writer are involved and extrapolate what their future would could be, after talking to leading scientists, technologists, innovators and so on and filter that vision through my own lens.”

She explains that she is known to represent specific values, mainly diversity in culture and gender, sustainability, creativity and the arts in their extended meaning and youth culture.

Futures today, she observes, are more complicated and require a deep understanding of several fields from robotics to biotechnology in order to make for a compelling story.

Monika’s clients include major Hollywood and entertainment figures (Ridley Scott Associates, Alex McDowell, Sam Esmail, Guy Laliberte), iconic media brands (Universal, BBC), technology leaders (CERN, Intel, Telefonica, Google), design companies (Rick Owens, Aston Martin) and governments (UAE).

She is also a co-founder of ALLFUTUREEVERYTHING, an agency and a platform for prototyping futures.

With technology companies, Monika conducts talks, collaborations and consultation sessions to help imagine and understand what the future world, where their products and technologies would be set, could be like.

“We realise that the big problem with the tech industry is that often, surprisingly, they do not ask themselves why they are doing what they are doing and the what the impact of it could be. They start with good intentions but a lot of these intentions go wrong.” She cites the American elections as an example, saying that if they create an open platform during that time, they later realise that it has been taken over by trolls who work against women or people of colour, even sending death threats.

“There is a way to get rid of them but that hasn’t been planned ahead. What I do is help these companies think about how the products or technologies they are creating will sit in a geo-political-socio-cultural context to create the desired, a positive impact. I help them imagine what their technologies are enabling and empowering as behaviour and ideology. And I also help them understand how they should position their premise and embed the communication into a product.”

Monika says she was pleasantly surprised to find herself working on real city development projects, the third main aspect of her work, to create the vision of the future of that particular place.

“This means imagining the place as it is desired in the next decade. The vision does not only include buildings but also the idea of population, the activities happening, even newspaper headlines. We then project the vision as if we are making a movie about that city in the future and make it inspiring, not dystopian. Maybe then we could walk backwards and it becomes much easier when policymakers and key players understand the vision they are working towards.”

Monika began imagining realities as a child coming from a Lithuanian town ravaged by the world wars.

“I didn't exactly fit in, I looked different, I thought differently. For me, inventing fictional worlds and realities in my head wasn’t about wanting to be an artist. It was simply a survival tactic. I had my first photo exhibition in my early teens and I began using digital platforms to connect with people from around the world,” she recalls.

She then worked with an art, design and fashion magazine before moving on to the world of science and technology.

“By then my work was known enough in the industry that I got my first world design project in Hollywood (with Ridley Scott).”

She realised that this was what she wanted to because all along, ‘with all the different paths from being an artist-photographer to creative-director-publisher to becoming a world designer’, she never saw the world for what it was but what it could be made to be, its potential.

“I am not the creator of this vision, I am simply a conductor that streamlines the vision, after talking to experts and I fish amazing things, both of human creation and of the natural environment and bring them together to form a cohesive whole. It is not about bringing a world that does not exist, but one that it could come to be.”

It’s more than just a practical solution. One of the key points in her talk is ‘smart future + creative future = regenerative future’.

“I believe that just making life sustainable and lovable is not enough anymore. You can make the city as efficient as it can possibly be, but if people are having a miserable experience, the efficiency is not going to make them happy. Ultimately, we are creative animals, appreciating beauty in everything whether man-made or natural is what makes us human. There is a vital need for us to play and be imaginative.”

And Monika says her goal is to people see that ‘in whatever way we live our lives, we care changing the world with our actions or inactions. Everything we do, be in the realms of science, entertainment, technology, or advertising, we are shaping the culture of the world we are inhabiting.”

She says she is ready to change the world, or die trying.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 12:49:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/the-future-is-now/article19871638.ece

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