It should come as no surprise to anyone that climate change is pushing ecological stability towards an explosive crescendo. A 2016 report by the United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR, said that 21.8 million people were displaced due to floods, famines, fires and storms. It has also been estimated that nearly 1.2 billion people face eviction from their home and habitat.
The notion of home has evolved since the early days of human civilisation, as shelter to aid in survival and protect humans from harsh environments around them. It has evolved into a gathering place for family, a group of people or individuals to retreat to once the day is over.
However, the glass and chrome lifestyle of today must include sustainable building practices to reduce carbon footprints as the home once again becomes the last refuge from extreme weather and natural disasters.
Home, though, is not just limited to a physical reality upon which you reside. It is an emotional fortress — a boundary between you and the rest of the world, along which you grow your “domestic” personality. The evolution of changing built realities is not just related to what the structure of a home will look like, but also what it would feel like to reside in it.
In fact, this cognitive evolution is occurring right now, and at a much faster pace than the built revolution. With the advent of smart home and IOT (Internet of Things) technology, as well as AI assistants starting with Alexa and Siri, domestic life looks a lot different than it did even a decade ago.
Interiors are not just “inanimate” anymore but understand human language and respond with movement and action. They provide the infrastructure, media and platforms to allow human activity. However, are these personalised experiences enough to get over the feeling of isolation from lack of social contacts in modern times?
The use of AI and IOT in smart homes has brought enhanced personal experience of comfort and safety, but concerns over privacy and data security have grown and must be addressed. Home is no longer just a personal space, since work is not only limited to offices. After the onset of the pandemic, our lives are increasingly remote, and so we further limit the need for physical social proximity.
One of my earliest thoughts on this was to perceive this as a “de-evolution”, implying stagnation instead of evolution implying growth.
Now, having researched further, I’ve come to develop a different view of this.
Since our earliest humans depended on socialisation for survival, our desire to connect left physical imprints upon the brain that exist to this day and govern mental health. Needless to say, the lack of social stimulus to the brain has grave consequences for our psychological stability.
While we might associate loneliness with negative consequences and everything but “evolution”, psycho-anthropology would classify this differently.
Technology is now the stimulus which our behaviour is developing alongside — from using phones in bed to do work, to taking pictures of food before you even begin eating. These behaviours may seem “insignificant”, but are actually important features of this new revolution. It is difficult to tell which came first: growing lonely due to disruptive tech use, or relying on technology to alleviate loneliness. Either way, this is what the psychosocial framework of the contemporary human looks like, shaped by major changes in technology, culture and politics.
We may not realise it, but we are moving away from physical construction to the growth and fabrication of built environments. We are deviating from strong bonds in society and culture, and losing ourselves in virtual realities where our connections are set to be more deterministic. The emotional reality of the future home will extend beyond its physical boundaries. It will be up to you to determine whether you are “lonely” or “alone”.