Review: The Future Starts Here, V&A London

Published 25 September 2018

A winner of our student writing competition, Lavanya Mane finds out what the future might hold in an exhibition exploring developing technologies.

Tucked away in the vast Victoria and Albert Museum is a small space housing some big ideas. A collection of over 100 objects allows a glimpse into the future, our future. For while weaving through the four main sections of this exhibition – Self, Public, Planet and Afterlife – it becomes clear that the future is malleable, that the decisions, actions and technologies of today will mould tomorrow’s world.

The first interactive exhibit is an emotive laundry-folding robot failing miserably at a task routine for humans, as if to establish that, although you might be about to engage with cutting-edge technologies, these are a supplement to the human experience. It is easy to be awed, however; we could potentially repopulate the planet with extinct species, envision a Martian home, and redefine life itself with genetic editing and a digital avatar that lives on after we die.

Undoubtedly incredible and thought-provoking as these ideas are, we're also reminded that humans have long deliberated such grand questions. Each section of the exhibition brilliantly displays a related relic, such as a key carved into a ring from 300-400 AD (wearable tech!) or a celestial globe mapping the positions of stars from 1627.

The most impressive exhibits, however, are the ones aimed at helping people lead better lives, such as cochlear implants to properly experience music – and more than this, helping all people lead good lives: 3D printing for use in conflict zones, for example, or sturdy flat-pack temporary shelters for displaced communities.

The final section, 'The Future Is…', prompts reflection on the exhibition. I think the future is one where nobody gets left behind.

The Future Starts Here is 50% off with National Art Pass and Student Art Pass until 4 November 2018 (£16 standard entry), V&A, London.

Lavanya Mane is a PhD candidate in microbiology, a lover of art and theatre, and always wishing for more books to read.

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