FEATURE: Story Thinking: how Sherlock Holmes can help us understand emergent tech

by Lance Weiler

In the fall of 2014 we launched an ambitious collaborative storytelling experiment with an impromptu gathering of storytellers, game designers, makers and hackers. Initially it all started with a simple mashup of two       things that ignited our imaginations — “Sherlock Holmes” & “the Internet of Things.” At that point in time a large number of works by Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, had just entered the public domain. Meanwhile the buzz of IoT, with its promise of everything rapidly connecting to the cloud, had experienced numerous fits and starts. However Google’s acquisition of Nest (a smart thermostat company) for $3.2 billion in cash put IoT front and center in 2014. Overtime Nest would come crashing back to earth as changes in leadership and struggles to evolve within Google continue to prove difficult for both companies. The Internet of Things like many emergent technologies struggles to find meaning within the marketplace. While IoT points to a strange Harry Potterfication of the world where everyday objects take on seemingly magical powers, it is difficult for us to fully understand how the technology can bring true value to our lives.

However the notion that objects could become enchanted thus enabling narrative to spill off screens and into the real-world presents a unique opportunity to explore a 21st Century adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle himself was making sense of new emergent technologies and processes such as ballistics, fingerprints, blood testing and non-contaminated crime scenes as he serialized the trials and tribulations of Holmes and Watson. In fact his fiction introduced and helped popularize numerous techniques that informed the cornerstone of forensics that we depend on today.

What if by examining the works of Sherlock Holmes we could gain a better understanding of the emergent technology that surrounds us today?

To be continued…