There is something fascinating about looking at the past’s vision for the future. We’ve all seen the images of what people in 1900 envision for the year 2000. Perhaps it’s because there are pockets of the future within the confines of that era’s technological milieu. There begins a surreal relationship between the promise of the future and the weight of history.
Take the example of the battle car. The automobile was new and ready to change the world, so some people busied themselves with thinking about its other applications. This prediction came true, of course, and evolved into the modern-day war tank. Autonomous cars are undergoing a similar process, with Ikea imagining alternative uses for the interior.
But how do these ideas come to be? One way is through patents.
Patents offer a glimpse into visions for the future.
These visions are sometimes complementary, often competing. And whoever wins often points history toward a certain direction. Consider the telephone. Alexander Graham Bell is often credited with its invention, but some people believe it was really the Italian inventor Antonio Meucci. The debate all comes down to a patent technicality.
The Patent Library, The Institute of Patent Infringement’s art installation at London’s V&A Museum explores the strange and uncanny future being imagined by big tech firms right now. The Institute sifted through thousands of publicly-accessible patents filed by Amazon and invited the audience to browse and critique this “legally-sanctioned” future by providing opportunities to hack, alter, and repurpose these patents for ulterior aims.