Sunday afternoon sketch
A movement to get teenagers to make a pledge is afoot!
Never in human history have we had singular source of reputation. Reputation has always been multi-facetted. Some people cheat at poker. Some people cheat on their wife. Some people do both.
- Paraphrase of Clay Shirky
The best ideas are the most dangerous, since they take hold and are the hardest to change. Hence, the Macintosh is dangerous to the progress of user interfaces precisely because it was so well done! Designers seem to be viewing it as a measure of success rather than as a point of departure. Consequently, it runs the risk of becoming the Cobol of the 90’s.
— Bill Buxton (http://www.billbuxton.com/natural.html)
We often get caught up in the speed of change that new technologies bring to our 21st century lives. As thoughtful beings, we must reflect, “Is this change good? Will we survive and thrive?” Our brains are wired to fixate negatively on change (potential danger) and associate “good” with the status quo, making it easy to become pessimistic about the future. However, we should remain hopeful, not because of an inherent belief in technology’s value, but rather a belief that humanity will learn to adapt and thrive regardless of the changes technology brings.
Ours in not the only generation to face dramatic change. Those living during the 19th century faced unprecedented advances, particularly, the proliferation of railroads. This new transportation lead the social critic, W.R. Greg to reflect to his generation:
"Beyond doubt, the most salient characteristic of life in this latter portion of the 19th century is its SPEED, — what we may call its hurry, the rate at which we move, the high-pressure speed at which we work, — and the question to be considered is, first whether this rapid rate is in itself a good; and, then whether it is worth the price we pay for it…. the moral consequences are probably graver still, though both sets of effects [physical and moral] are as yet only in their infancy, and will take a generation or two fully to develop."
(Literary and Social Judgments, pp. 263-267)
Like Greg’s generation, we too, live in a world where SPEED and its consequences feel in their infancy. While we could attempt to make a value judgement about the effects of railroad induced speed throughout the 19th and 20th century and derive predictions for our own future, we would only be conducting an interesting academic exercise. The point is that humanity is still here today, 150 years after the advent of the railroad. We have adapted to the changes, even adapted our definition of speed. Now, ironically, taking a train is generally about slowing down, relaxing, and experiencing an idyllic countryside, not getting to a destination as quickly as possible. That which in the past was a symbol of speed is now an agent of reflection.
We are right to be cautious in the face of the immense changes technology brings to our lives, but we should also remember to keep faith in humanity’s ability to adapt to those changes.
Designers are visionaries with strong points of view about technology and the “right” way to design a system or service. This stubborn nature leads many a designer to complain that their perfect product vision failed to be properly implemented. Typically, blame falls on the client or developer. How rarely does one hear, “I, almighty designer, failed to understand and make the right compromises with a client” or “I, Photoshop god, failed to design a product that could actually be developed within the allotted time and scope of a project?”
Here we could take the lead from how profound philosophers with radical ideas handled their own, practical political lives. In Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sarte, Walter Kaufmann writes:
Unconciously he reminds us of a lesson we learnt from the Greeks, from Plato in particular: that philosophical profundity and political sense do not always go together… Radicalism is sometimes eminently fruitful in philosophy, while political good sense is probably inseparable from moderation, compromise, and patience.
Our innovative design ideas might earn us design awards and industry recognition. However, if we wish for those forward thinking design ideas to take root in business and society and therefore have the greatest possible impact, we’d best learn how to compromise.
Future is an interesting choice for a main nav. It’s not technology, but rather the future of everything. People might not be interested in technology, but who’s not interested in the future?
I’m not surprised that people fear technology. Its newness is confusing and no one’s quite certain what to do with the promises it offers. Furthermore, technology allows us to encounter people who are different from us, the very people we are likely to fear. We fear the unknown. And technology is both an unknown itself and a vehicle to connecting us to greater unknowns.