News 29.09.2023

Need to Know

Meet the speculative ecological intelligence agency using AI, Marta Indeka’s Foresight Friday and cats fed a plant-based diet could be better off than those eating meat.

Superflux unveils the Ecological Intelligence Agency

The Ecological Intelligence Agency, UK

UK – Superflux, known for its speculative futures work, has introduced the ground-breaking project, The Ecological Intelligence Agency. Amid the rush for advanced AI, Superflux is questioning our planet’s ecological challenges, aiming to reframe how AI operates before exploring its capabilities.

Over the past few years, Superflux has explored the intersection of ecology and technology, paving the way for Ecological AI. The agency’s goal is to redefine artificial intelligence, emphasising labour, climate and data justice for ecological wellbeing.

Commissioned by Policy Lab UK and Defra Futures, Superflux’s project focuses on freshwater systems post-2043. It speculates how an iteration of Ecological AI could re-imagine collective policy decisions by representing the voices of more-than-human entities such as River Roding in London. Superflux has produced three short films exploring how AI could solve pollution, sewage and flooding, based on data analysis.

This optimistic usage of AI signals how technology will help businesses find alternatives and solutions for water scarcity, quality or global sewage concerns.

Strategic opportunity

Develop comprehensive policy frameworks that encourage the integration of ecological AI in public and private sectors to address ecological challenges effectively

eBay opens the UK’s first pop-up restaurant serving air-fried foods only

UK – Together with air fryer cookbook author Nathan Anthony, eBay has opened the UK’s first ever pop-up air fryer restaurant for one night in London on 27 September 2023.

The eatery, called Air, served a choice of small plates including crispy salt and pepper squid, halloumi fries and sweetcorn ribs. Naturally, all menu items were air fried, using refurbished appliances available on eBay’s marketplace.

The first-of-its-kind restaurant aimed to show diners how versatile cooking with air fryers can be, but also to educate people on the cost and energy savings incurred by buying refurbished kitchen appliances. ‘We want to demonstrate tangible ways shoppers can save money on their energy bills and on the cost of kitchen appliances, through choosing refurbished,’ adds Mark Monte-Colombo, head of refurbished technology at eBay UK.

As eBay revealed new data showing that over a third of Britons are unsure how they’ll pay for increased energy bills this winter, and 48% seek advice on how to cook more efficiently, the timely launch supports consumers in dealing with the Cost of Living Crisis.

Air by eBay, UK

Strategic opportunity

Highlighting the cost and energy-saving qualities of your products goes a long way for budget-tight consumers. Take inspiration from eBay’s use of experiential marketing to make financial savviness seem more fun

Foresight Friday: Marta Indeka, senior foresight analyst

Carolina Carballo for The Future Laboratory Carolina Carballo for The Future Laboratory

Every Friday, The Future Laboratory team offer an end-of-week wrap-up of the topics, issues, ideas and virals we’re all talking about. This week, senior foresight analyst Marta Indeka discusses fashion month tops and flops, IRL Pinterest and boy math.

: While fashion month provides some light-hearted entertainment and creative inspiration, it also brings a set of considerations each time around. Just look at the record numbers of PETA protestors crashing shows, or attendees deploring the waste created by novelty show invitations and merchandise in this brilliant substack newsletter.

: That said, many fashion houses stunned with wit and creativity. At Sunnei, the audience was the judge. Each attendee rated looks as models walked using old-school score cards. Peter Do, in turn, delivered impeccable tailoring infused with cool nonchalance. The show notes said: ‘This season, we want our work to speak for itself.’ Copy loud and clear.

: The latest pocket of the internet I found myself obsessing over is ‘boy math’. Not only us women excel at self-derision, cue girl math, but we also do the work for our arguably less self-aware male counterparts. Enough said. I’ll let boy math speak for itself.

: Londoners are in for a treat. Pinterest, aka everyone’s favourite inspiration platform, is introducing Possibility Place in Covent Garden, a two-day corner shop, beauty bar and DIY store pop-up. The message? Do the vision board, but most importantly – translate your online inspo into the real world.

Quote of the week

‘Despite the apocalyptic weather, the destruction playing out across the world and the activists marching on the streets, sustainability is still an afterthought at the major fashion weeks’

Alec Leach, author and sustainability strategist

Stat: Cats on a vegan diet may be healthier than those fed meat

Photography by cottonbro studio, Global
Photography by cottonbro studio, Global

Global – A September 2023 study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Plos One, has found that cats fed a plant-based diet could be healthier than those fed meat, revoking the popular belief that cats should be carnivorous.

Over a year-long period, researchers surveyed 1,418 cat guardians, of whom 127 (9%) feed their pets a vegan diet. Measuring the prevalence of 22 health disorders, researchers found that 42% of cats eating conventional meat-based foods suffered from at least one health disorder, compared to 37% of cats on a plant-based diet.

The number of health disorders per unwell cat also decreased by 15.5% when fed a vegan diet, veterinary visits decreased by 7.3%, medication use by 14.9% and diagnosis of a more severe illness declined by 7.6%. But the study notes no reductions were statistically significant.

Cats are a carnivorous species, but with the widespread adoption of plant-based diets and sustainability concerns around meat consumption, pet food producers are exploring other avenues. Gen Z seem willing to splash the cash on their Prestige Pets and want their furry friends to share life experiences similar to their own.

Strategic opportunity

Consider pets a natural extension of the family and their dietary values. Develop campaigns emphasising the health and sustainability benefits of pet products to appeal to the eco-conscious, pet-loving Gen Z and Millennial consumers

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