Systems, Creativity

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Tech Will Flood Itself Out of a Job


  1. Architectural, R&D, never done–before ideas
  2. Existing technologies in new applications
  3. Lowered costs and better consumer openness
  4. Incremental improvements
  5. Integration to new markets

In this mountain metaphor creativty is concentrated in the middle, the edges will slowly drawn by the output of the sector as a whole. New tools will reduce the need for developers to build algorithms (for example), so that company would have automated itself out of a job. Example of this might be graphic interfaces to build a statistical optimization tool, on the fly real-time translation, adaptive user interface to improve engagement et al.

This will happen across many routine areas of the tech sector, leaving the inner rings more protected from automation. Because this behavior is self propagating, it will also be exponential.

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Climbing Up the Decision Making Tree

Traditional design (up until today) deals with satisfying what people need. For when they’re out in the market, reaching their hand out to a shelf, looking for something to buy.

All of this is conditioned on a decision to have been made (I am going to buy a new car seat, sweater or potato peeler).

Design for agency could climb up that decision making tree, and help with the actual decision making process, independent if that decision turns money to your product (car seat, sweater and potato peeler), mostly because you’re already automating the production, distribution and sale of all of those.

Design that helps decision making is design for agency.
Design for agency helps people make decisions, without having an opinion on what the outcome of these decisions should be.

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Product Cycle’s Negative Space


In the every day life of our prospects a need presents itself to the user, and with some luck our product has enough of a mindshare to be chosen.

Once that need is fulfilled our user is still the same person. If I am seller on Etsy, my passion for a community of making does not disappear when I close that app.

Design for agency is design for the negative space outside the product cycle you’re currently thinking about.

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Design for Agency

Product design exists in the real world (outside our head). We have places we need cabs for, groceries which need delivery, and music we want to listen to.

Companies, and tools seek (needs, attention) and work with those externalities – mostly trading off needs, and value by reading our actions.

As tool–making is shapeshifting what does design for agency (design for the world inside my head) look like?

Plotting ideas on the scale of universality (plug and play, or completely unique, including steps in–between) could be a good place to start.

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On Universality

Tools are designed to be universal, of course. A hammer can’t change to be a screwdriver. With algorithms we now try and use context where possible. With data, sensors and other externalities we might try and change the behavior of our system (the catch–all promise).

Issue is that the context we’re trying to use is rule based. If you did this, then you would want that (note that actions are always external).

Like entropy, context is much easier to mess up than to get right. And with tools claiming false universality (say schedule all of your meetings) context is almost always going to eventually miss its target.

Rather than to try and catch external circumstances, against a perceived task, we might want to think about the individual (and not the tool).

What might that individual care about in an on–going (internal) basis. And what might we do to offer (on–going and not anecdotal)...

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On Experience and Efficiency


Experience and efficiency are opposite on the scale of the human condition.

You can plot poetry, art, design and industries on that line.

On the one side it is meat and potato mentality. Getting things done, with smallest expense, cutting fat wherever possible (MVP).

On the other, it is experience for its own sake, aiming for inner movement, that comes from a truly transformational moments. Looking at a canvas of splashes of paint, starring at the sunset, or otherwise talking about your feelings (or to your feelings = advertising).

The other dimension is our tools. Produced with impossible mission of universality (one tool for everyone), while existing in our behavioral reality (my world is different than yours).

Our lack of logic, or rather the predictability of our illogical behavioral (Kahneman etc) is well known.

Hyper logic, and brute force efficiency (machine learning...

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More on Mediation

A tool always mediates reality. It does so by the reduction of our surrounding into a tunnel of meaning (scene, actors, feeling), and a rational utility. A tool is a model. A hammer, an algorithm, a car: all program us to behave in accordance to an implicit trade–offs.

When I flick a light switch, I am receiving one version of light, in a set frequency, projected onto a set physical range, and under its current placement. I might chose to use a smartphone camera which could be more flexible (move around), but more taxing (I need to hold it in one hand).

This is why issues with algorithmic understandability make drafting a contract so difficult.

Unintended consequences need to be addressed of course (you would not use a light switch that only works 50% of the time), but we all have a mental model of what a light switch does, or a car, or a calculator.

The contract (our...

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Misfits Go to the Jungle


Zoos, like permissions, gatekeepers and monolithic thinking are falling out of fashion.

You can either stand in line, and wait to be let into a crowded space, or to the jungle and explore. You would need conviction (agency), compass (interests) and openness to new connections (liminality).

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Mediation of Reality

“John Muir published How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive in 1969. In one of the many asides that enliven the book and give it a countercultural feel, he wonders about the effects of some of the newfangled safety equipment, like seat belts. He writes, “If we all constantly drive as if we are strapped to the front of the car like Aztec sacrifices so we’d be the first thing hit, there would be a lot less accidents.”

“The animating ideal seems to be that the driver should be a disembodied observer, moving through a world of objects that present themselves as though on a screen”

“What all this idiot-proofing and abstraction amounts to is a genuine poverty of information reaching the driver.”

“Disconnection—pressing a button to make something happen—facilitates an experience of one’s own will as something unconditioned by all those contingencies that intervene between an intention and its...

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Plumbers are an unexpected protagonist in the story of human machine collaboration.

They render a utility, on your pipes, in your house – they don’t care about your friends, your friends’ friends and showing anyone their flyers.

They would not want to take your pipes, nor would you shlep your pipes to your plumber. A plumber has no central repository of all piping problems they fixed (although that might actually be useful). And the plumber is not reselling anonymized versions of your pipes.

On a deeper level a plumber is an instantiated form of plumbing. Each plumber is a unique instance of plumbing.
They are an absolutely unique and independent (do not communicate to a central code base of plumbing), they display emergence (2 plumbers might develop a skill, or offering by working together), and don’t rely on any top down guidance.

*In computing this could partially likened to...

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