Centre for Applied Research of the Faculty of Digital Media & Creative Industries

Get ready for the future at Society 5.0 Festival Amsterdam

25 Oct 2023 16:00 | Faculty of Digital Media and Creative Industries

What should the sustainable and inclusive society of the future look like? And what role can technology and creativity play in realising this 'society 5.0'? This is what designers, scientists, makers and artists are looking into at the annual Society 5.0 Festival (31 Oct & 1 Nov). "The festival is a playground for discovering this future," he says. It includes a workshop where you mine human resources, encounters with real-life avatars and guest speakers such as artist Matt Adams of art collective Blast Theory and publicist Mounir Samuel.

Today's 'information society', or Society 4.0, is based on a ubiquitous internet. We are now on the threshold of the next social revolution where new technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotisation and immersive reality of VR and AR will exert enormous influence on how we relate to that information society. At the same time, social issues such as equality and climate change are becoming increasingly urgent. Are we able to design a sustainable, digital and inclusive society without losing sight of the well-being of people and the planet, a Society 5.0? "The Society 5.0 Festival aims to be a playground to explore this future," says programme creator Gijs Gootjes, also Strategy Director Digital Society School at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.

Disruptive tech industry

Creativity, Care, Connect. That is the positive approach of this do-think-and-experience festival. Like previous edition, the programme consists of inspired keynotes and practical case studies as well as small-scale workshops and artistic installations. Besides the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, the Rietveld Academie, the Amsterdam University of the Arts (AHK) InHolland University of Applied Sciences are also closely involved in the programme. "Each of these programmes brings a different expertise, such as entrepreneurship or, on the contrary, an autonomous artistic vision of the future."

Beyond 'go fast and break things'

Also unchanged is the premise that design and creative imagination can play a crucial role in social change, says Gootjes. "It should no longer be about the possibilities of technology. But about what do we actually want as a society? And we can then adapt technology to that. In that quest, creativity is indispensable." Recurring questions in this quest are: How can we live more in harmony with nature? What can we do to promote democracy? And can we make the internet an inclusive meeting place again? Gootjes: "The credo of the disruptive tech industry was Go fast and break things. We want to offer an alternative to that. Be caring and build things."

Watch the aftermovie of last year's festival

Notable this year is a focus on artificial intelligence. There is almost no aspect of society that will not be affected by it. We see great opportunities for very complex problems such as, for example, new types of disease control or even solutions to climate change. But there are also huge challenges. Think of biases being reinforced, because the male and white perspective is dominant in AI programmes. "How can AI be deployed from public values, while considering its individual, social and ethical consequences?" the programme maker says. It also addresses more practical dilemmas. "For example, AI consumes a huge amount of energy. How do we deal with that and how does it fit into the sustainability issue?"

Privacy and data protection

This year, the number of storylines in the programme has expanded to six, curated by guest curators:

Digital Rights

What rights do we actually have as individuals in the digital domain, where more and more power is coming to lie with just a handful of tech companies? Gootjes: "Besides an impact on privacy and data protection, we see other ethical dilemmas surfacing with the rapid rise of AI, and in particular generative AI. For example, is the use of AI for journalism permissible? And can you use AI in writing your thesis? Can AI bring a dead actor back to life? Tricky choices to which we will have to formulate answers both as individuals and as a society."

"There are limits to exploiting other living beings."

More than human

Humans are fundamentally connected to - and dependent on - their environment. We share the earth but also the cities we live in and the buildings we work in with animals and vegetation. Our future therefore depends on the well-being of other life forms. "To reinforce this awareness, we are organising the Mine Yourself workshop. What if we start mining human resources in our bodies, not only the nitrate in urine but also iron in our blood, for example? That is, of course, a radical thought experiment. But it shows that there are limits to exploiting other living beings."

Generative Storytelling and Creativity

With AI and immersive technology like VR and AR, new forms of storytelling are emerging in which boundaries between reality and a deepfakes are blurring. For example, lifelike encounters with deceased people can be created with sophisticated chatbots and realistic avatars. "This also raises new dilemmas. In a debate with ethicists and creators, we are talking about the limits of AI in the afterlife."

Wellbeing in a digital age

That technology can be addictive is widely known. At the same time, it is also being successfully integrated into healthcare, such as in new forms of therapy with virtual reality. British art collective Blast Theory has been considering these questions for more than 30 years. Founder Matt Adams will give a keynote on how the complicated relationship between technology and our physical and mental well-being.

Speculative futures

If we want to help shape the future, we will have to think differently. After all, how do you imagine what does not yet exist? This does not have to be done only with grandiose vistas. "Students explore in workshops with The Social Hub Amsterdam City, the location of the Society 5.0 Festival what the hotel life of the future might look like. Will we all soon be living nomadically? Or will the hotel become an alternative to nature?"

Inclusive Participation

Inclusiveness is still far from being taken for granted. What is needed to accelerate this more social process. "Renowned political scientist and publicist Mounir Samuel will give a lecture on this topic. He is not only a leading thinker but also develops concrete action plans and interventions to make society safe, accessible and more inclusive - but for truly everyone."

Mounir Samuel, by l'Impossible Amsterdam


Society 5.0 Festival. 31 October & 1 November 2023. The Social Hub Amsterdam City, Wibautstraat 129 in Amsterdam. It is organised by Center of Expertise for Creative Innovation: Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam University of the Arts, Inholland University of Applied Sciences and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.