本文摘要:This year, Ford, announced it was opening a research and innovation centre in Silicon Valley. But it’s not just computer geeks that the great American carmaker is hiring these days. It has recently taken on a plethora of social scientists


This year, Ford, announced it was opening a research and innovation centre in Silicon Valley. But it’s not just computer geeks that the great American carmaker is hiring these days. It has recently taken on a plethora of social scientists as well, in its research labs in Michigan and around the world.今年,福特(Ford)宣告将在硅谷(Silicon Valley)创建一个研发与创意中心。但是这家美国汽车巨头聘请的并不只是计算机怪才。

最近,福特还为坐落于密歇根乃至世界各地的研究实验室聘用了大批社会科学家。These psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists are trying to understand how we interact with our cars in a cultural sense. It is a striking development and one worth pondering in a personal sense if, like me, you spend much of your life rushing about in a car.这些心理学家、社会学家以及人类学家于是以试着从文化角度来解读我们是如何与自己的汽车对话的。这是一个引人注目的动向,也是一个有一点从个人角度深思的议题——如果你像我一样,每天花费大量时间驾车奔走。

In the early days of the company, Ford executives did not seem to be overly concerned about “culture”. The founder, Henry Ford, was cavalier about his customers, famously declaring: “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.” But while the company has become far better at offering a customised service since Ford’s day, its cars generally seemed to have been designed by clever engineers who tended to assume that everyone liked the same things that they did: mostly flashy gadgets.在公司创办的早期阶段,福特的高管或许并没过度忧虑“文化”。创始人亨利福特(Henry Ford)对顾客漫不经心,他有一句“名言”:顾客想什么颜色的汽车就能享有什么颜色的汽车——只要它是黑色的。


”但是,尽管自从福特时代以来,该公司早已在获取自定义化服务方面获得长足进展,但总体而言,目前为止福特汽车或许都是由高智商的工程师们设计的,这些人偏向于假设,每个人都讨厌他们所讨厌的东西:大多是花里胡哨的小玩艺。These days, Ford executives have realised that it is not good enough to create cars simply according to what seems cool to its (mostly male) engineers in Michigan. They need to take a much wider and more imaginative view of consumer tastes.如今,福特的高管早已意识到,全然依据其密歇根工程师(绝大多数为男性)指出炫酷的爱好来造车是过于的。

他们必须从一个更加广阔、极具想象力的视角来看来消费者的口味。That is partly because of globalisation — and, in particular, the fact that Ford (like all carmakers) is more reliant on the Chinese market for sales. Unsurprisingly, Chinese consumers often have radically different ideas of what makes a great car, especially if they are female.部分原因是全球化,特别是在是福特(就像所有汽车制造商一样)现在更加依赖中国市场快速增长销售的事实。并不奇怪的是,中国消费者(尤其是女性消费者)对什么才是好车往往具有截然不同的观点。

A second reason why Ford is becoming more interested in culture is that the nature of cars is being transformed in a surprising way. Back when Henry Ford started making his Model T, the task of building cars was a job for technical engineers. Today, it also involves computer experts since cars now contain a dizzying amount of software.福特对文化的兴趣日益浓烈的第二个原因在于,汽车的本质正在以一种出人意料的方式再次发生改变。当年亨利福特开始打造出其T型车(Model T)时,生产汽车是技术工程师的工作。

而现在,研发汽车的过程还牵涉到计算机专家,因为汽车包括了令人眼花缭乱的各种软件。That has prompted tech companies to jump in. Last month, I listened to some engineers at Viv Labs, a Silicon Valley start-up created by the founders of Apple’s intelligent personal assistant Siri. They explained how we would soon be using cars embedded with artificial intelligence. Companies such as Google are creating self-driving cars and even Apple is rumoured to be creating a car of its own — a move that would probably create even more waves than last week’s launch of the Apple Watch.这促成技术公司重新加入进去。上个月,我与Viv Labs的几名工程师闲谈了闲谈,这是由苹果(Apple)人工智能助手Siri的创始人创建的一家硅谷初创企业。

他们向我说明,我们将在旋即的未来用于配备人工智能的汽车。谷歌(Google)等公司正在打造出无人驾驶汽车,甚至有传言称之为苹果也在研发自己的汽车——此举很有可能将比上周公布的Apple Watch引发甚至更大的波澜。As competition from the tech sector heats up, this is not only putting traditional car markets under pressure but also fostering creative thinking about the future of travel. Executives at Ford are now trying to look at the whole business of carmaking in a wider sense — both by hiring social scientists and by working with consultancies such as ReD, a group that specialises in social science research.来自科技行业的竞争日益加剧,不仅让传统汽车制造商忍受压力,还为未来旅行孕育出创造性的思维。现在,福特高管正尝试以一个更加广阔的视野来检视整个汽车生产业务——通过聘用社会科学家,并与专门从事社会科学研究的ReD之类的咨询机构联合合作。

“We are looking at the bigger cultural context of cars,” explains Christian Madsbjerg, co-founder of ReD, who says that while Ford used to design cars “inside-out” (based on what engineers wanted), it is now trying to create them “outside-in” (based on what consumers want to experience). Or as Parrish Hanna, Ford’s global director of human machine interface, argues, what Ford is trying to do is promote “innovation” while using social scientists as consultants.“我们正在找寻汽车更大的文化内涵,”ReD的联合创始人克里斯蒂安马斯比耶尔格(Christian Madsbjerg)说明道。他称之为,福特过去设计汽车是“由内而外”(根据工程师的拒绝来设计),而如今它于是以试着以“由外而内”(根据消费者想的体验)来打造出汽车。


或者正如福特全球人机界面总监帕里什汉纳(Parrish Hanna)所称的那样,福特尝试去做到的是增进“创意”,并请求社会科学家兼任顾问。Though it remains to be seen what type of car will emerge from Ford’s new centre, I applaud the project for two reasons. The first is somewhat partisan: I trained as an anthropologist and have always lamented the fact that the discipline tends to be woefully under-appreciated and under-resourced. If companies such as Ford are now hiring social scientists, it might give anthropology a badly needed boost. Indeed, groups such as ReD say anthropologists are now cropping up in an increasing range of companies, such as Samsung, Adidas, Carlsberg, Lego and so on.尽管福特新的中心不会研发出有何种车型另有待仔细观察,但我出于两个原因而赞许该项目。第一点多少有点指责之意:我曾多次自学沦为一名人类学家,并且仍然对该学科偏向于被相当严重高估及资源严重不足耿耿于怀。

如果福特之类的公司现在开始聘用社会科学家,这也许不会给人类学带给一个急需的推展。事实上,ReD等集团称之为,人类学家如今在更加多的公司中崭露头角,比如三星(Samsung)、阿迪达斯(Adidas)、嘉士伯(Carlsberg)、乐高(Lego)等。The second, more important reason this trend is interesting is that it could point to a bigger shift in business attitudes. Back in Henry Ford’s day, the power relationship between corporate executives and consumers was imbalanced; these days consumers can band together to express their preferences — and change their tastes at lightning speed.这种趋势有意思的第二个也是更为重要的原因是,它有可能指向商界态度的整体改变。

在亨利福特的时代,企业高管与消费者之间的实力关系是不均衡的;如今消费者可以牵头一起传达自己的爱好——并以雷电速度转变自己的口味。So when you next get into a car, it is worth taking a look around and thinking about what you might tell an anthropologist if they were sitting in the passenger seat. Could you imagine a radically different way of driving? Does the way we imagine “cars” meet what you really need? And if it does not, how might we — or those brainiacs in Silicon Valley — redesign the experience? I daresay the answer would make Henry Ford spin in his grave.所以,当你下一次坐进汽车里时,你应当环顾四周并想一想,如果人类学家就躺在副驾座位上,你也许想要告诉他/她些什么。你能想象出有一种几乎有所不同的驾驶员方式吗?我们想象的“汽车”体验否符合了你的确实市场需求?如果这没能符合你,我们——或者硅谷的天才们——该如何新的设计这种体验?我敢说,亨利福特地下有闻的话也不会忙活一起。