He has the short cropped haircut of your average IT guy. But he’s wearing swim trunks and a life vest as he drives a jet ski up to a solar-powered buoy. What’s his job? “Blockchain banking engineer.” This buoy is a water-cooled server, crunching the numbers behind the global economy.
Blockchains are hard to understand as a theory. Even harder is piecing together how bitcoin or Ethereum might impact the job market. But a dude on a jet ski? That’s easy.
That’s the idea behind this series of illustrations by Salt & Pepper Creative. They were commissioned by creative agency AKQA London and the global youth leadership group MiSK to illustrate some of the biggest ideas at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, the leadership event full of presidents and CEOs that few of us will ever go to. (The price to attend online is $65,000 per head.)
“We had two audiences to attract with this imagery. Firstly the audience at Davos itself. You have to realize, the entire place is covered in boring, corporate work; we needed to make images that really stood out and grabbed their attention,” says Salt & Pepper’s Pansy Aung. “Secondly, we had a responsibility to create work that would engage with . . . youth. Some of the imagery is a little exaggerated, but then some of the topics are naturally quite dry and boring. We had to create a balance that would be both true to what was said, but interesting to actually look at.”
Indeed, while the images were all born from actual ideas presented during WEF’s panels, the visuals are delightfully imaginative, exaggerating the future with Michael Bay-worthy drama. For example, a “Landfill Recycle” bot, proposed by one panelist as a way to sort through garbage to find valuable materials in landfills, wasn’t rendered as a tiny mechanical nightcrawler. Instead, Salt & Pepper drew it like some industrial-sized snake-turbine built by GE, ridden like a rodeo bull across the polluted landscape. Likewise, a robotic surgeon, connecting via 5G wireless internet signals to allow a doctor to perform haptic telepresence surgery in a remote village in Africa, wasn’t rendered as some garbage pail with a scalpel but as a three-wheeled humanoid robot with a holographic human head.
“We love Black Mirror, but almost every sci-fi film or TV show at the moment is predicting a dystopian world, and in a way we are being conditioned to believe that for the future to be considered real, it has to be dystopian,” says Salt & Pepper’s Senan Lee of the campaign’s own breathless visual tone. “We needed this campaign to be a positive reflection of our future world.”
Frankly, if there is a place for such future-forward positivity, it is in teaching our children about the promise of tomorrow. Because if they don’t believe in the possibility of building a better world, who will? That wasn’t a rhetorical question. I want to know who among you will start a rodeo hosted on giant robotic recycling worms. It looks like a blast.