Watchlist: People

For inspiration, five contemporary individuals and five modern classics to return to.

Jeff Staple

Jeff Staple (or “jeffstaple”) is doing street culture his way. Dissatisfied with the dominant aesthetic of hip-hop fashion, based in showmanship and flashiness, he created the now-famous back-to-basics street culture apparel brand, Staple Design, in 1997. In 2003, Staple opened his own retail shop, Reed Space, that has since become a New York institution, housing the most respected street culture apparel brands of all time. From that success, Staple has explored and conquered additional manifestations of his passion, including a gallery and a deadline-proof publication, to house his curiosities, ideas and obsessions surrounding street culture that do not fit within the retail model. Uniting his label, shop, gallery and magazine is his uniquely confident sensibility, his curator’s eye for interesting and creative objects that demonstrate a commitment to craftsmanship. As thoughtful as he is ambitious, he addresses bigger-picture ideas surrounding creativity, which Staple explains is “the rawest, most spiritual thing we possess. It’s also one of the most difficult things to bottle.” In his work, Staple questions the need to adhere to deadlines, focusing instead on uncompromising quality for his creations; whether it’s his magazine Reed Pages or his seasonal collections, he challenges the thinking of producing more, on schedule, opting for making less and when it’s ready. Staple is holistically redefining what street culture will look like in the future.

Skylar Tibbits

Computational architect Skylar Tibbits is changing the future of fabrication. His recently-founded Self-Assembly Lab, one of the myriad of cutting-edge Labs at MIT (where the 29-year-old professor has already been teaching architecture and design for the past 4 years) is pioneering ‘4D printing’ (where the fourth dimension is time), using smart materials to make objects that change shape, evolve and build themselves according to plan. This year alone the Lab has been awarded The Architectural League Prize NY, the Visionary Innovation Award at the Manufacturing Leadership Summit and the Next Idea Award at Ars Electronica for their groundbreaking work. Prior to his teaching position, Skylar founded SJET, the platform for experimental computation and design that has now expanded to be a multidisciplinary research-based practice tied to MIT. Skylar has exhibited work at The _Guggenheim Museum _in New York and the Beijing International Art Biennale; he has been published in numerous articles and built large-scale installations in Paris, Calgary, New York and Frankfurt; and continues to balance his work at the MIT Lab and in the classroom with a plethora of prestigious speaking engagements around the world.

Andrew Zolli

Andrew Zolli has great timing. Whether he is onstage unfolding an engaging story, or selecting interesting discussion themes for the insightful conference _PopTech, or connecting audiences with his most recent book, Resilience: The Science of Why Things Bounce Back, Zolli follows the beat of his own drum. In his own work as a “futures researcher,” Zolli studies “the complex forces at the intersection of technology, sustainability and global society that are shaping our future.” Through PopTech, he is able to bring together a “global community of innovators, working together to expand the edge of change,” to congregate in Camden, Maine where the annual conference is held. Meanwhile, his book continues to be pressingly relevant across all industries trying to survive and thrive in crisis, helping them “maintain their core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances.” _Collaborating with a diverse network of prominent companies, well-respected nonprofits, public policy groups and venture-backed startups, Zolli leads cutting-edge innovation that is helping to solve the world’s biggest problems.

Elizabeth Stark

Elizabeth Stark is an influential ‘open internet’ advocate who was deeply involved in stopping SOPA and fostering online engagement in support of internet freedom. She started the _Ideas for a Better Internet _program at Stanford, where she teaches at the intersection of computer science, law and design. Prior to teaching at Stanford she was a lecturer in Computer Science at Yale University. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Stark founded the Harvard Free Culture Group and served on the board of directors of Students for Free Culture. While at Harvard, she researched extensively for the Berkman Center for Internet & Society on projects ranging from net censorship to crowdsourcing to digital copyright policy. Stark has also worked to harness the power of the Internet to rethink educational models. She has organized peer-based coding classes, led workshops on women in entrepreneurship, serves as a mentor for the Thiel Fellowship (originally called 20 Under 20)( this issue and is working on an early-stage startup around the future of knowledge. In addition to this, Stark is a resident at _StartX, _a nonprofit peer-based entrepreneurial community (there are no leaders, only knowledge-sharing peers) at Stanford, that in only a few short years of existence has become the second best in terms of funding acceleration, proving that models that are flat, open and bottom-up do work.

Catarina Mota

Catarina Mota is giving everyone the heads up now: ‘smart materials’ are what computers were in the 70s, a burgeoning industry where those who understand and experiment the technology will reign supreme. “Acquiring preemptive knowledge about emerging technology is the best way to have a say in the making of our future,” says Mota, a maker and open-source advocate responsible for co-founding the Lisbon hackerspace altLab, and the DIY, collaboration and smart material-exploration platform openMaterials. The latter project engages and assists anyone who is curious about smart materials, that is, the new class of materials that actually change in response to stimuli, from conductive ink to shape-memory plastics, through an online interactive community. Always eager to empower people to make things (especially to make things together), she also teaches hands-on workshops on high-tech materials and simple circuitry for inquisitive minds of all ages, encouraging interest in science, technology and knowledge-sharing. Mota continues to encourage (and study the effects of) maker culture in the digital age, specifically the use and adaptation of digital fabrication tools to strategically shift the power of technological innovation from the elite to ‘the people.’

Alvin Toffler

Octogenarian futurist Alvin Toffler is an American writer known for his works discussing the digital revolution, communication revolution and technological singularity. His seminal text, Future Shock, written in 1970, that explored the social paralysis induced by rapid technological change, and The Third Wave, which he wrote as its sequel in 1980. In the latter he categorized the history of human society into three ‘waves.’ He noted that ‘First Wave Society’ was marked by the agrarian revolution that replaced hunter-gatherers, followed by ‘Second Wave Society,’ marked by industrial revolution, mass culture, a centralized economy and ruling bureaucracies; and in the mid-20th century, he argued, there would be a shift towards the ‘Third Wave Society.’ A post-industrial world, moving from standardization to diversity, from mass culture to subcultures, from slow and brittle bureaucracies to adaptive and fluid ‘adhocracies,’ from mass-production to mass-customization and from material resources to informational resources (resulting in, what Toffler called, ‘cognitarians’ rather than proletarians). Lastly, he predicted that consumers would become ‘prosumers,’ people who consume what they themselves produce,_ i.e._ open source makers and freelancers. Together with his wife, Heidi, the Tofflers have been critically acclaimed for their ongoing clarity, originality and rare insight into the future.

Richard Buckminster Fuller

Richard Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller (1895-1983) was a renowned 20th century inventor, architect, theorist, designer, futurist and globally-minded visionary. Dedicating his life to making the world work for all of humanity, Fuller controversially and constructively operated as a practical philosopher who demonstrated his ideas as inventions that he called ‘artifacts.’ Like a modern-day mulitdisciplinarian, Fuller did not limit himself to one field but worked as a ‘comprehensive anticipatory design scientist’ to solve global problems surrounding housing, transportation, education, energy, ecological destruction and poverty, as he believed that specialization was the enemy of synergy (the now-famous concept he is responsible for). Throughout the course of his life, Fuller obtained 28 patents, authored 28 books and received 47 honorary degrees, and while his most well known artifact, the Geodesic Dome, has been produced over 300 000 times worldwide, Fuller's true impact on the world today can be found in his continued influence upon generations of designers, architects, scientists and artists working to create a more sustainable planet. Holding their relevance, his worldviews have striking insight 30, 40, 50 years later and read as a contemporary perspective.

E.F. Schumacher

Ernst Friedrich “Fritz” Schumacher (1911–1977) was a German-born economist that influenced the world with his rather rebellious insights and critiques of Western economies—arguing for human-scale, decentralized and appropriate technologies. Returning home after schooling abroad, Schumacher found himself in Nazi-ruled Germany. Appalled, he fled to England where he was interned as an enemy alien, work- ing as a farmhand by day and develop- ing economic theories in the evening. His ideas soon caught the attention of economist John Maynard Keynes, securing his release from labour and beginning the illustrious career that would indeed lead him back to redeveloping Germany in Hitler’s wake—as advisor to the UK’s National Coal Board (NCB). Deemed one of the 100 most influential works published since World War II, his book Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered, published in 1973, challenged the widespread mantra for corporate growth that ‘bigger is better’ and pointed out the fragilities in the modern world relating to compulsive scaling. In addition to this argument were those regarding sustainability, as his time advising the NCB had provided him with a farsighted perspective on consumption (in his book he pointed out the implications of eroding finite capital, i.e. fossil fuel and natural resources as “expendable income”). Schumacher was one of the first economists to question the appropriateness of using gross national product to measure human welfare, emphasizing that “the aim ought to be to obtain the maximum amount of well-being with the minimum amount of consumption.”

Peter Drucker

Hailed as “the man who invented management,” the Austrian-born American consultant , educator and author, Peter Drucker (1909-2005)’s writings contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of the modern business corporation. For Drucker, management was ‘a liberal art,’ and he infused his management advice with interdisciplinary lessons from history, sociology, psychology, philosophy, culture and religion. His 39 books, along with his countless scholarly and popular articles, predicted many of the major developments of the late 20th century, including privatization and decentralization, the rise of Japan to economic world power, the decisive importance of marketing and innovation, and the emergence of the information society with its necessity of lifelong learning. In the late 1950s, Drucker coined the term ‘knowledge worker,’ and he spent the rest of his life examining an age in which an unprecedented number of people use their brains more than their backs. Throughout his work, Drucker called for a healthy balance—between short-term needs and long-term sustainability; between profitability and other obligations; between the specific mission of individual organizations and the common good; between freedom and responsibility. Famously saying that “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” he instilled the corporate world with the notion that culture is their most important asset, their anchor and bearing that ensures safe navigation through waves of change. Reminding organizations that culture steers strategic intent, not the other way around.

Lebbeus Woods

The late visionary architect Lebbeus Woods (1940-2012) never took solid footing for granted. Born into a nation at war and growing up amidst fighter jets and chaos, his curiosity, imagination and sense of precariousness shaped his unconventional designs that are now hailed as the _avant-garde _of the avant-garde. His boundless experimentation in the field of conceptual architecture defied the constraints of society, nature and even buildability, with designs that verged on science fiction in a poetic, sometimes prophetic, manner. Seeing a need for critical and imaginative architectural thinking beyond bureaucratic efficacy, in 1988 he co-founded the Research Institute for Experimental Architecture in Switzerland. However, despite his seemingly-fantastical designs he clarifies, “I’m not interested in living in a fantasy world,” Woods told _The New York Times _in 2008. “All my work is still meant to evoke real architectural spaces. But what interests me is what the world would be like if we were free of conventional limits. Maybe I can show what could happen if we lived by a different set of rules.”

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