Identity could grow more fluid as people gain more freedom to pursue the lifestyles of their choosing outside normative assumptions of race, nationality, sexuality, gender, age and more. More nuanced characteristics are supported by social media niches alongside AI that may raise self awareness to help you define what works for you.
How the scenario may emerge
There are many reasons why people’s identity could become more fluid. We have been witness to long term cultural battlegrounds around race, gender and sexuality. Although there is a long way to go and the direction is not always correct, it could be argued that progress in some parts of western society has led to increased freedoms in expression and exploration of identity.
If we couple this with emerging trends in migration (which may rapidly expand in a climate crisis), remote working, and gig economies ,we can also see flexibility emerging in how people use their careers, location and nationalities to define who they are.
This ability to choose not only means that people can fulfil a previously suppressed side of themselves, but it means they can experiment to understand a broader foundation of what it means to be them. This pursuit of self-understanding may well be influenced or supported by the emergence of emotional AI that could enhance our self-understanding by bringing us sophisticated insights about our character and patterns in collective identities.
While this fluidity is defined by a relaxation of what it means to be a part of strongly defined demographics, those demographics still demarcate differences in power that mean this freedom will inevitably be less available to some.
We consider the significance of this context from the perspective of a future character who we created based on our research with real people.
What might that mean for Sam?
For someone like Sam, whose identity is constantly being explored, the value of knowing yourself is built through changing yourself. We can explore how services may challenge or meet the needs of ‘fluid people’.
I have to keep friends up to date with who I am so they’re not shocked with my changes… Nothing stays the same.
Advances in medicine could result in increased life expectancy and the extension of sociological or biological phases of life, such as reproductivity. New ways of creating children and alternative types of familial structure may remodel important concepts of identity relating to families, in particular, what it means to be a ‘parent’.
Sam has been largely independent since they were 16 years old. They have now found a supportive and caring community among fellow LGBT+ people but they have to schedule and rotate time with friends from different parts of their life. They work as a mechanic with their uncle, they have football friends, work friends from the nightclub, uni friends where they study Physics, and church friends. In each environment, they like to represent slightly differently.
People like Sam are happy when they are free to embody different sides of themselves and whatever they’d like to be. Happiness comes from simple things like a well timed cup of tea — it is a spectrum of different momentary states. While a lot of their happiness comes from being able to have the experiences they want, they still take value from purpose, like the role they take from being a part of a community at church or working with their uncle.
Their goal is to understand themselves and be understood by others. They want to create control, purpose, and independence in their life and want to build new connections and relationships based on truly authentic self-expression.
Sam’s happiness is heavily impacted by the freedom they have to create authentic interactions between their true identity and the world around them.
Explorations in ‘Identity fluidity’
We explore the future by looking for potential points of traction between this scenario of identity fluidity and the needs of someone like Sam. These explorations are outlines of services that act as emerging spaces for solutions or as spaces to explore the problems and provocations elicited by the services.
Sides of me
A platform that uses AI to monitor your emotions and behaviours, so you understand all the different sides of your character. It shows you how your character is related to people in different contexts and how you’re perceived by others.
Team: The Lab
Non-Dinary is an educational dining experience focused on the notion of gender as a construct. Non-Dinary approaches this conversation in an unconventional and lighthearted way to create a transformational journey for uninformed cisgender people to develop a greater understanding of gender non-conformity.The service also captures the level of comprehension about the wider spectrum of gender, the changes in gender acceptance geographically and over time and to better understand learning patterns to raise institutional awareness.
Osmosis is an AI expression and reflection service that helps young people focus their attention on what deeply matters to them, using their aspirations as a lens to understand what beliefs and values are essential to developing their agency.
In this set of explorations, we were asked to consider scenarios where huge advances in AI mean that people may be understood by digital services better than they can themselves. Consistent data inputs about our emotional state and our actions can be cross referenced to give people new levels of insight that simply would not be achievable without regular monitoring and algorithmic analysis.
Within these visions, we can anticipate issues with how technology can define a person’s identity in a neutral, meaningful and nuanced way. For example, if there were issues in our algorithms, the mirror they hold up to people may be inaccurate but unquestioned, which could potentially result in a multitude of side effects. As another example – if someone experiences something challenging in their life, an algorithm may confuse that as an entirely negative situation, and discourage them from continuing with it. In such a circumstance, people might rarely leave their comfort zones and the technology could corrupt someone’s understanding of themselves and alter their chosen course in life.
Beyond the conversation about AI led human understanding, we may also see the proliferation of services which respond to the adaptations of people’s identity. This may simply be provision of service in neutral ways or highly nuanced ways or they may blend a standard offering with a political and social message. They may go beyond services that consider and accommodate more fluid states of identity toward actively encouraging new levels of comprehension around a particular topic.
When viewed collectively, these explorations remind us that while technology may enhance some new found identity freedoms within ourselves, they will always exist in a complex world where other individuals and organisations have their own political agendas that may become increasingly vocal and perhaps not so fluid.
Related to ‘Identity Fluidity’
Mymes uses an understanding of people’s behaviour to create simulations of their future to help them make decisions and it distills different sides of their character to help them explore who they are.
Developing a deeper AI driven understanding of yourself to influence your decisions and optimise for your happiness and prosperity.