Back to the F**kture: Bethany Koby-Hirschmann

sector - media & technology
sector - youth
type - podcast
In the fourth episode of season two of our Back to the F**kture podcast, Martin Raymond speaks with techno-optimist Bethany Koby-Hirschmann about the importance of a healthy relationship between children and technology


Technology and optimism are words we seldom find in the same sentence, never mind linked together with the same hyphen.

Yet techno-optimism, as we will discover in our latest Trend Briefing, is at last coming into its own thanks to the outlook, technical ingenuity and vision of entrepreneurs such as Bethany Koby-Hirschmann.

Some of you may know Beth as the co-founder of Tech Will Save Us, where she produced a range of sharp, smart, DIY kits and wearables that allowed kids – and their less articulate parental playmates – to learn the basics of coding. Others will know her as the founder of FAM, the family inventions studio that’s already making waves in the world of health, wellbeing and the future happiness of families.

But this isn’t health, wellbeing or happiness in the traditional sense; it is health, happiness and wellbeing in the tech sense. Or, rather, it is about recasting technology – and our children’s relationship with it – in ways that are more positive, proactive, optimistic and life-affirming.

It is also about re-assessing the role that families play in envisaging tomorrow, and how in turn they can use this optimistic understanding of technology and their relationship with it to make that future better, more inclusive and family-friendly.

To this end, she prefers to call herself the chief vision officer of FAM – ‘more iterative, focused and descriptive of the job itself’ – rather than the more familiar chief executive officer, which she, like fellow optimist and business thinker Simon Sinek, have issues with as a title. ‘I mean, what do they do? What does the job title even mean? How does it explain the value you bring to a company?’

Like Sinek, she believes it doesn’t, and so opts for a descriptor of a job that both believe should be more imaginative, inspiring, and crucially, future-facing. To build tomorrow, she tells me in another meeting we have before our on-air conversation, we have to envisage it first, not as a shiny, white, flawless, super-domed entity, or for that matter, one of toxic rains, humming neon or out-of-control shadow corporations, but by enlisting the help of the very people who will inevitably live there – parents, care-givers and, more importantly, children themselves.

Published by:

2 September 2022

Author: Martin Raymond and Bethany Koby-Hirschmann



At present, a child’s involvement in iterating tomorrow is usually confined, she reminds me, to focus group input on a new toy, and is invariably about utility, transaction and appeal; for that, read using children to increase the financial appeal of a toy or piece of kit or a new game. But what if you are asking them about the future and meaning of home? Of saving the planet? Redesigning our cities with a people- or children-first perspective?

Koby-Hirshmann and her team are currently doing just that with Danish design and concept lab Space10, where the focus ‘isn’t on practicalities, safety or cost’ but on the notion of home when you apply multiple voices, geographies, genders and dreams to it.

They’re also working with TBA21 – a contemporary art organisation established to foster a better understanding of the world’s oceans and its coastal cities – to co-author a series of design interventions for coastal cities, alongside architects and designers. In East London, she and her team have built a hacking garage to allow fans of Converse to express their creativity.

In all instances, as she explains in our In Conversation session, she uses a speculative approach and scenario-building process that places children at the heart of all activity. ‘If they’re going to inherit tomorrow, they should be at the heart of developing it.’ But so too should nature and the natural world, or as she refers to it, ‘the more than human world’. And finally, when these two parts of the process have been considered and explored, she looks at how solutions should be output using different formats, so that the solutions can be multi-sensorial, ‘an idea, as well as a product, a service or a piece of code instead of something that is tangible or easily commodifiable’.

With children, she reminds us finally, brands especially always want to output stuff they can buy, whereas we really should be trying to output dreams that we can capture and cherish.

You can find out more about Beth and FAM here.

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