The Five Principles of Good Systems

It’s hard to know if something we make is good, yet it’s an important question. We keep building systems with parasitical business models, addictive personalities and long-term side effects. Classic performance measures, like business growth, make economic sense, but there are deeper social, environmental and cultural issues at stake. Instead, I propose a set of five principles, curated from the best of philosophy, history, economics, science and design. By evaluating the things we make according to a set of concrete principles we can create products, services and systems that are in balance with the world.

Excellent Experiences Built on Lies?

We are in the age of experiences. Of seamless services. Where vast infrastructures move in the deeps beneath a thin layer of experiences to deliver us what we want, when we want it, at a low price. But what if it’s based on a lie? A lie that we can have these wonderful experiences without any cost to the people, economies or environments that make up the delivery chain? Christopher Roosen explores. 

Cholera and the Power of Data Driven Insights

In 1854, John Snow demonstrated the revolutionary power of data driven insight when trying to understand and prove the cause of Cholera. His investigation is a powerful reminder that a thoughtful exploration of data can yield confronting new insights. Insights may need powerful narratives to explain them, but without the data, they are just rhetoric. 

Knowledge Doesn’t Have A Price Tag

One of the risks of binding everything we do to a price tag is that we began to attach money to everything, including basic science. Perhaps it’s the romantic in me, but I think there are things that don’t neccesarily have an obvious or immediate financial return. We do them to understand our world. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the long and expensive particle collider experiments that are trying to understand the very fabric of our universe. Deeper insight may be our ultimate reward. 

Long-Term Plastic Pollution for Short-Term Profits

With our growing knowledge about plastic in the environment, it astounds me that we are still using plastic toy based promotions. These sort of promotions product temporary profits that wear off, leaving everyone with a plastic hangover. Meanwhile, our focus on short-term thinking creates long-term problems that we will deal with for generations to come. Christopher Roosen explores.

Light: A Radiant History from Creation to the Quantum Age

In Light: A Radiant History from Creation to the Quantum Age, historian Bruce Watson, weaves a masterful story of our changing relationship to light - from the mystical to the quantum. In the end though, it is our hunger to  understand one of the most complex aspects of our universe, that drives us forward to even stranger insights. A reminder that even the most omnipresent natural forces has many secrets yet to reveal. 

Buy More By Design

We’ve built a global economy based on the consumption of products, services and experiences. To make it work, in the last fifty years, we’ve intentionally designed many socio-cultural frameworks that encourage mass consumption at an unprecedented scale. This is ecologically unsustainable and it’s time to design a different way to live. If we really want to be human centred, then we should start from the most enriched view of human experience, one where we live in equilibrium in our ecology. Then we should work backwards to figure out business models that make it work. 

Long Term Thinking

The Notre Dame cathedral is a perfect example of a generational project, taking many human lifetimes to complete. Its partial destruction reminds us of the importance of fortitude for long term projects. Many of the greatest science, art and engineering projects took decades to see outcomes. This is especially pertinent in our age of instant gratification. Christopher Roosen explores. 

Why Write?

In these times, when there is no shortage of information, why bother to write? Put simply, writing is a time capsule. The only way that two people can communicate if separated by time and space. Every single one of us should write deeply, meaningfully and clearly about what it is like to be alive in our time. Christopher Roosen explores. 

Experimenting With Technology

A human centred design philosophy places a premium on understanding human needs first, and then shaping technology to suit. However, the creative experimentation with developing technology is still a crucial part of the innovation process. It helps discover new opportunities, weaknesses and capabilities of the technology that underpins human needs. Christopher Roosen explores. 

Can the Internet Be More Than a Soapbox?

People are consuming dangerous materials in a desperate hope for medical cures. It’s an old problem, but I think the network technologies we’ve constructed make it harder for these sorts of ideas to be expunged. We’ve given edge beliefs the largest soapbox in the world. Instead of being brought out into the light of the day, challenged and deconstructed, beliefs are driven down deeper into the fabric of the internet. Christopher Roosen explores. 

Powerful Learning Comes From A Two Thousand Year Old Idea

Want to innovate education? Maybe focus less on educational technology and more on designing how people collaborate. In this spirit, I suggest we bring back the dialectic conversation. The dialectic is an ancient Greek method of learning that uses conversation to explore complex ideas. I think the dialectic a vastly under-utilised way of learning and I offer a small invented example of a moment of conversational learning.

Planned Obsolescence

Planned obsolescence, the process of intentionally designing things to fall out of fashion, function or repair makes a fundamental assumption of infinite resources that can be converted to things. But ecosystems are not infinite. So the onus is on all of us to make better choices. Those of us who make things and those of us who buy them.