Many people on the left and the right thinks the way to solve this problem is to give up on scaling to return to local communities and to give up on being open to strangers to return to local communities and maybe also to local traditions. On the right, they say small towns on the left they see eco villages I think this is backwards. This is backward thinking by definition as I think it's an incredibly destructive it implies cutting a lot of people off don't make it into one of these eco villages don't make it into the return to tradition. It's incredibly cool. So try to show another way.
Some people like John Vivek II think the meeting crisis came from bad philosophy. I do think bad philosophy was involved. I have an article about where I placed the blame more or less David Hume. But I think this picture here is much fuller explanation of the problem and better guide for how to resolve it.
I believe that, when our societies were more overly religious, it was easier to discuss sources of meaning in a common language. You see this in cultures which are still religious, like Orthodox, Jewish communities, Catholic communities, monasteries, Buddhist communities, Sufis, and so on. People try to find words for the meaning they're experiencing, and the types of spaces they need for it, and sometimes they succeed.
In these cultures, meaning is shared and definite.
Designers today tend to ask three questions about the user:
- How can we give them a smoother experience?
- How can we reduce the cognitive load?
- How can we incentivize someone to complete the experience, or lure them along through it?
The underlying model here—I think—is that people are lazy, stupid, and overcommitted. They are lazy so they need to be incentivized or teased along. They are stupid or overcommitted, so they need an experience that’s smoothed out, with low cognitive load.
And by default, in all of this, they are alone.
Stupid, lazy, overcommitted, alone.
It’s worth asking if this is true.
- Are humans stupid or lazy? I mean—among species, we have a lot to show for our efforts. We build cities, integrated circuits, and cathedrals. We write symphonies and decode whale songs. We start companies, clubs, and families. The average human reads and writes, works hard, and manages many complex tasks and relationships.
- Are we overcommitted? Perhaps when most of us were farmers, we were. And some parents with newborns certainly are. But the average amount of screen-time is Xh / day. Most people are wasting their life away with TV shows and social media. Seems we’re more bored than overcommitted.
- Are we alone? Well, there are seven billion of us.
So, then, we are not stupid, lazy, overcommitted, or alone.
Why, then, would designers, of all people—usually an empathic, pro-social, optimistic lot—tend to have this view?
Here’s what I think: they’re designing for a person who’s already in a bad situation.
And by doing so, they’ve given up before they started. They gave up putting the user in a good situation, and instead they leave the user hurting, and they make something that works even though that user is—temporarily—stupid, lazy, overcommitted, and alone within the design.
Instead of this (x) the opposite is this (y)
Y- people in a supportive environment can come alive, build relationships, and contribute.
Other kinds of design are better for spaces. Techniques from urban planning, for instance, or from game design, or interaction design. But these aren’t mainstream.
There are some: you can find surveys about how people connect in the space, for instance. But that’s not mainstream practice.
It’s clear from this, that designers think of their users as unmotivated, unclear, overwhelmed, and isolated. That’s why they need to be incentivized, entertained, given a smooth experience, and baited to engage.
No one asks
- How, if they’re unmotivated, they can be brought back in touch with their natural motives?
- How, If they're overwhelmed, space can be made for what’s really important to them?
- How, If they're isolated, they can be unblocked from building relationships?
Ideas like “lean startup”, “UX design”, or “incentives design” are almost defined by not asking these questions.