Peak Manifesto

Peter JonesHuman Values, Transformation Design, Wu Wei

AIGA recently posted a review of the surge of new interest in designer screeds, Manifesto Mania. My search for new manifesti did not find anything significant from designers this time, but just yesterday the Art of Hosting list pointed me to The Evolutionary Manifesto, which challenges the most overarching doctrine I have seen yet. Although in some ways it reads like a framework of new age principles:

At the heart of the evolutionary worldview is the fact that evolution has a trajectory—it heads in a particular direction. However, evolution on Earth will not advance beyond a certain point unless it is driven consciously and intentionally. If this transition to intentional evolution does not occur, evolution on this planet will stall, and humanity will not contribute positively to the future evolution of life in the universe—we will be a failed evolutionary experiment.

The document has theoretical and normative punch and breaks new ground in systems thinking.The author, a cognitive scientist (evolution of consciousness) from Brussels Vrije Universiteit, firmly grounds the position in scientific knowledge and reason. I’m on board, and see this as perhaps an ultimate manifestation of “taking the long view.” Human co-evolution, responsive to a sustainable natural world, requires a affirmative, energized, creative sense of understanding our role in the physical, sentient universe. As designers, we also have a kind of duty as cultural creators – and we have to enlarge our view of “sustainability” beyond that of survivability and ecological stewardship.

The Evolutionary Manifesto has the force of making our hip designer creeds a little less visionary. Can we grasp the meaning of intentional human evolution in the context of “designing stuff to make?” But like previous manifesti around the previous peak year 2000 (Cluetrain, Viridian, and First things First), which were valid then and now, this one appeared at another peak, mid-2008.  The “urge to manifesto” seems to show up when our prior collective motivations have tapped out, and the (economic and conceptual) peak is in and done for. (Such as the Designer’s Accord, which started in 2007). Stay tuned to this one.