Radha Mistry & Darren Brooker

Radha Mistry has a background in architecture, narrative environments, and strategic foresight. As a Story Strategist in the Office of the CTO at Autodesk, Radha explores the impact of emerging technologies and how it will change the way we design and make things in the future. Prior to Autodesk, Radha focused on the Future of Work with the Steelcase Applied Research group. Her work sought out ways organizations could drive Innovation through design. Previous to Steelcase, Radha was part of the Arup Foresight + Innovation team in London and San Francisco, crafting speculative futures for global clients; and was one of the original co-founders of GOATstudio in New Orleans —bringing some “swagger” and better opportunities for young architects. Radha has worked on E.U.-funded community engagement initiatives in European cities focusing on culture-led urban regeneration efforts, has exhibited work during the Lisbon Architecture Triennale, and is currently an advisor at Utopia, re-imagining the future of slums. 

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Darren Brooker is a Story Strategist working at the intersection of design, technology, and storytelling. His work for Autodesk involves building narratives that examine how the future will shape Autodesk, and in doing so, explore how Autodesk can shape the future. Darren works with a cross-disciplinary network of domain experts and thought leaders and has engaged in projects addressing the future of autonomy, construction, education, manufacturing, and creativity. In developing narratives, Darren draws on extensive experience working across the full gamut of the creative industries: he has been nominated for an Oscar for his script development and post production contribution to the short film The Voorman Problem and has won a BAFTA for his Visual Effects work for the BBC.

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Grappling with the Future – Using Science-Fiction to Make the Future Tangible

Stories – varying degrees of fictional representation about the recent past or the near future – help us construct our understanding of the world around us. If we take a moment to think about it, the notion of finding value in stories isn’t new; our histories, creeds, and technologies are very much embedded in fantasy and in fable. What storytelling allows for is a more intentionally curated version of our surrounding context; a point of reference which we’re not typically afforded in real-time and at the human scale.

The problem is that we’re bombarded with too many stories. The world is noisy and hard to parse. We don’t know what to make of our present, and perhaps consequently we don’t know how to plan for a future fogged with uncertainty. So how do we begin to quiet the noise?

At Autodesk we’re employing science-fiction as a mechanism to quiet the turbulence around us and provide clarity in our perception. The world is full of weak signals, fragmented indicators that give us insight into our potential futures and reveal something about the present. By reducing the noise and amplifying interesting weak signals, we can create a new lens on reality and begin to reveal critical insights into the shaping of our futures. We can begin to be proactive about our futures rather than merely reacting, succumbing to our circumstances.

As part of the Office of the CTO (OCTO) – the group tasked with exploring the role of emerging technologies and how we’ll design and make things in the future – we see the outcomes of investigations around weak signals often. Projects like the Digital Twin VR experience that was showcased at Autodesk University in Las Vegas gave our customers a better idea of how robotics and immersive technologies might one day augment our workflows, leveraging automation and allowing for remote collaboration. That technology isn’t fully pervasive yet, but it’s an indicator of where we might be heading. Our story around generative design and the new Autodesk Research center located in the MaRS Discovery District showcases the types of technological advancement that Archigram or Buckminster Fuller might have only dreamt up. It’s incredible. But how do we bridge the gap between where we are today, and where we think we’re headed tomorrow? We’re taking cues from science-fiction, allowing ourselves to be transported into an alternate conceptual space. In OCTO, we’ve undertaken a world building exercise, the outcome of which is a set of robust scenarios depicting our vision for the Future of Work. The process is helping us to answer questions such as “Where do we see our place in the discourse around automation?” and even “Will all of our customers be human?” For our talk at PRIMER we’ll be providing the first public introduction of the preliminary scenarios, a commentary on how we envision humans and machines will design, make, and use things in the future.