All in Observation

Technology Zombies

We are building technology that zombifies us. Unsettlingly similar to how a fungus can zombify an ant. Yet fungus is part of a set of checks and balances that keeps ecosystems balanced. Our mass zombification by our devices doesn’t balance anything. It captures attention in mass, for the benefit of a few. 

A Lawn Story

The humble personal lawn, one per household, seem to be an intrinsic part of life, mainly because we don’t remember the choices and incentives that went in to making them that way. Strangely, our individual and personal lawns may be a powerful force of environmental destruction. We are caught in the grip of an irrational set of historical design choices.

The Revenge of the Small

There are many social and environmental challenges we face that are realtively easy to visualise. Things like crowding, poverty and drought. Strangely, it’s the small things that are often the biggest problem. Especially when there is a lot of them. 

When Candy Was Food

Candy, not too long ago, was advertised as a wonderful source of nutritious food, a stance behind which was a dangerous mix of commercial incentives and incomplete science. What is even more worrying is the ‘candy as food’ framing hasn’t gone away, rather it is just more sophisticated than before. Maybe we just have to accept that due to its long history of framing and reframing, candy, for many, will remain ‘food’. 

Responsibility for the Things We Make

Many of the things we make have secondary opportunities for action. Examples include: vehicles, social media, mobile phones, office supplies and more. Whether the harmful action is advertised or not, if it is easy to use it in the unintended fashion, and it works well to achieve a goal, then people will discover the usage and use it that way. Or, people will overuse something (e.g. cars) or use it in anger (e.g. social media). I’m sure you can think of other things we make that support and enable devastating outcomes because of their design. Why do we make them in the first place? Why do we allow them? When will we take responsibility for the things we make? 

Decay of Digital Data - A New Dark Age

We like to think that improvements in technology will create a world tomorrow that is better than today. However, we are rushing forward into a world where popular music videos are replicated thousands of times, but crucial windows into human life, legal decisions and precious research is lost. We are letting popularity algorithms and business models determine what is kept. It cuts right to the heart of our ownership over information and our responsibility to maintain it for the future. We’ve conceived this digital world of information as a system that we would manage with a top-down intelligence, but we’ve proven incapable of managing it well. 

A Thinking System - Mindsets Over Processes, Activities and Tools

Creative thinking and innovation are hard and we keep looking for one discipline or one perfect process to encompass all others. History shows we are at our best when different disciplines collide with each other in a non-linear fashion. Rather than choose one discipline over another, or focusing too heavily on thinking tools, I’m in the middle of developing a flexible thinking system made up of six fundamental mindsets. Like using pieces of Lego, I’m exploring how we can use the core six mindsets to build our own custom creative thinking processes and take on any problem we face.

Innovation in Education

There is no point in talking about innovation in education until we address the incentives that quash any chance of it ever happening. Grades are the most obviously misguided incentive. Everyone reaches for grades, but they lead us away from innovation as they teach us to fear failure.

The Trap of Magical Thinking

If we fail to act on issues like climate change, or we put human needs always above that of the environment as a whole, or we don’t get crucial vaccinations, then we aren’t just excercising our rights to have different beliefs. We are impacting the wellbeing of those around us.

Mission versus Mandate

So the next time you wander through a large organisation, keep your eyes out for whether you see the physical signs of a history proudly displayed. For good or for ill, it might give you a hint that you are dealing with an organisation with much more then a temporary mandate.