Thursday, February 22, 2018

Why should technology be based on human abilities and limitations? It's a question of kindness and of evolution.

Why do I think companies should make their technology truly user-centred?

The simple answer is that I want everyone to be treated kindly. 

Technology that isn’t human-centred isn’t kind.
Phones scream at the whole room instead of calmly alerting the intended recipient of a call. Navigation aids add stress to driving with confusing, last-minute instructions. We are all endlessly interrupted by simple-minded technology alerting us to things that are rarely urgent. Shallow gamification prevents us from thinking deeply when using our most ubiquitous tools.
That's not kind.

The complex answer is based on evolution. 

Our ability to shape tools and their ability to shape us has always been counter-balanced by the fact that the spread of new ideas was a slow, cross-generational process. People and technology could adapt to each other in different ways in different places - in the same way that amphibious life evolved in scattered tidal pools.

This diversity of processes is a key factor in evolution. Without diversity, there’s no competition for "survival of the fittest". Either all of the homogeneous participants survive in an environment that suits them, or all die. Technology now iterates without enough natural or imposed experimentation. And it is ubiquitous, flooding into all of the tidal pools at once.

Consider earbuds. Level of volume and exposure time contribute to a simple formula for inducing temporary or permanent deafness. Even at low volume, wearing earbuds for hours at a time damages the ear.


That's not kind, either. 

And it's not good for our continued evolution and survival.