How do you make the computational device a cherished heirloom?

Year: 2021 - present
Solo Project
Skills: scenario planning, computer simulation, electronics, model making, research, interview, photography, document making, manifesto writing, future fiction
Exhibitions: RCA IDE x GID show 2021
Conferences: PRIMER21, presented during workshop co-facilitated w/ Viraj Joshi
#ewaste #inheritance #cyberpunk

We live in an age of extreme waste, where the computational device is disposable by it's nature. Yet also, the state of electronics manufacturing in 2021 brings us to a moment of great opportunity for change. We are in the midst of a global chip shortage, at a crossroads for the traditional model of Moore's law, and experiencing significant fragility in consumer ecosystems.
In this work, a future is synthesised in which the Computational Heirloom is a common possession for the everyday person in the UK. These heirlooms are devices, of similar function to the laptop and smartphone of today, that defy obsolescence to the extent that they are passed down multiple human generations. And more, they are not put on a dark shelf or in a bank lockbox, but used everyday for the mundane and extraordinary.
The decisions of this future are based in analysis of the intertwining complex systems at play. They form non-linear routes through the manufacturing technicalities, policy, desire, and business models of the agents within them.
A future computational heirloom in it’s resting state. What morphologies and ergonomics would arise if the device was a symbol of familial legacy?
issues / opportunities
The pursuit of the computational heirloom is in response to unsustainable, systemic issues in business, manufacturing, policy and consumer
behavior. In 2021, we are at a unique point where there is pressure on the manufacture to decrease the rate of new product releases. Moore’s law is slowing
down, allowing smaller innovators to catch up, and a global chip crisis is reducing the ability for mass manufacture of new devices.

Is there an opportunity here to reduce consumption, and create an ecosystem of extreme long-life hardware?
Unlike traditional functional heirlooms like a Rolex wristwatch, computational devices are far from timeless. In order to perform the most desirable functions of the time, they must be morphable, adaptable, maintainable to adjust to changing
needs. This is feasibly achieved through open standards (right); that give both the user and producer companies of computational heirlooms and their parts, the agency needed to work with diversity in form, function, and architecture.
In order to feasibly manage this in a UK context, an executive agency is proposed, that safeguards registration, licensing and standards; and what happens when your CH (computational heirloom) becomes an insurance write-off?
Fictional government website for the CHLSA (Computational Heirlooms Licensing & Standards Agency)
Fictional FPGA engineering standards by the fictional corporation BiSMUTH, for ensuring field programmability throughout generations of devices
Extending the life of computational devices has been attempted before by companies such as Motorola and FairPhone, however, they have never been successful enough to hold a large market share. The key to being successful for the corporation lies in business models and consumer desire. 
Here I formulated four models of consumer desire based on previous literature, and propose a fifth, the cyber-agent desire, that morphs and maintains computational heirlooms for generations (right).
The ecosystems of today (bottom left) and that of these novel agents (bottom right) are proposed. Here, Eric Von Hippel's free innovation paradigm is taken to its extreme. In this system, user innovation is an overwhelmingly popular task, and dependency on producer companies is largely in manufacture alone.
The process used is experimental and intentionally non-linear, to capture as much detail as possible from the complex systems involved.
It begins with an audit, from which scenario plans are made. Models are then generated to prove the scenarios, and these fed into design fiction, which then loops back to re-inform the scenarios.
This process has been very successful, as it's looping nature creates greater detail with each cycle. This detail is then helpful to inform real-world strategy, and increase certainty in any scenario. However, the usage of models must be approached with caution, as they can deceive with terrible consequence if not properly validated.
A manifesto, featuring manufacture, maintenance and usage guidance was created.
In this document, an activist’s approach is taken to provoke the user to question their current relationship with their computational devices and desires.
It is intentionally bureaucratic and following fictional procedure I formulated from my previous experience working in the medical tech sector.

To access the creative commons text, please visit:

A print version containing images was presented at the IDE/GID 2021 show, coming soon for public distribution.
To access the original show page for this project at the Royal College of Art, please visit:
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