A software update is expected to save the VW brand. A problem that appeared impossible to solve for years has been rectified within a month with a couple of program adjustments and a flow transformer, which costs only a few cents. Kudos, but, if I may say so, and as recently aptly reported by Michael Müller on Spiegel Online, this sounds a bit like the “flux capacitor” from Back to the Future, the film trilogy which also gave rise to the existence of hoverboards. But, the issue is less about doubting the speed of VW engineers and more about questioning the tardiness of management. Time and again we come across people, also outside of film, who are ahead of their time, whether this is due to speculation or the rigorous pursuit of existing opportunities. The history of electro mobility or Paul Otlet’s invention of the Internet avant la lettre are a couple of instructive examples. Developments often do not fail due to the technical possibilities or the lack of vision of individuals, but rather due to complacency and political or economic interests.
It is this disquieting alliance between indolence and lobbying that is also constantly at work in our focus topic on energy. Otherwise, hundreds of years of uncontrolled forest clearing for construction timber, firewood, and space, the resettlement of entire communities due to coal mining, military conflicts for oil and gas and even a VW exhaust scandal would be absolutely incomprehensible. Design can raise awareness of the use of energy and can flow into various aspects, from sufficiency and systemic concepts to the already mentioned speculative design. Ultimately, the examples in our design guide to energy also show that resource conserving and environmentally friendly alternatives are available to fossil or nuclear technologies, which are often described as having no alternatives.
In his current work „Im Haus der Dinge“ [In the House of Things] Gert Selle writes: “Things have become more intelligent, users dumber. The subject/object relationship between the two actants appears to be reversing – for the first time in the history of tool-using people, when intelligence and strength still guided the hand. […] These days, the sorcerer’s apprentice is rewarded with the idea that a swipe of the hand is enough to summon what is desired.” We should not consider this a swansong, but rather a challenge to ensure that we respond with vigilance rather than idleness to the things. With this issue, we would like to warmly welcome Sarah Schmitt to our team, who will take over the design of form, together with Carolin Blöink and Susanne Heinlein, in the future. We will stick with the basic layout, but we have made a few minor adjustments and will continue to do so in future wherever appropriate.
We wish you relaxing and restful holidays. We look forward to seeing you again in 2016 and hope that you will stay with us.
Stephan Ott, Editor-in-Chief