Presumably, many of you read our newsletter every week in part because we engage with the social and political dimensions of design, technology and behavior.
Last week the U.S. elected a president who campaigned on a rhetoric of hate and there is a real possibility that the hateful rhetoric could turn to hateful actions and policies.
While we do not embrace a single political party or ideology, we have never been neutral. Political realities are inseparable from the fabric of life itself, and so neutrality is an impossible state to achieve or hold.
Our friends, colleagues, collaborators and team members are LGBTQ people, Muslims, immigrants, people of color, etc. and our lives, our work, and our clients' companies are better because of this. The notion that exclusion or a system of tiered rights could improve anything is an ugly lie that we will not accept.
If design and technology is to deliver on the promise of creating a better world, it has to be done through inclusive, forward thinking practices: developing tools and systems that enable freedom, protect the vulnerable, and empower the disenfranchised.
We all have work to do. Take your powers of influence, skills, and resources seriously and use them to good in this world.
- It feels like reporters have grown weary with the parade of consumer focused connected devices. Whether it's an internet enabled egg carton or a "Keurig for juice" - so often the value delivered is marginal to nonexistent. The latest product to get roasted for dubious utility is a "smart" toaster oven called June. What the article really nails is the phenomenon of technology developed to solve problems, that ends up creating more problems through cumbersome interfaces and interactions. Are we really that bad at cooking, and if so, is it that hard to get better at it? Humans have a deep desire to build skills, and get better at things - maybe the next wave of consumer focused tech can address that need instead.
- Emoji watch: a Saudi teen successfully persuaded the Unicode Consortium to add a hijabi emoji in their next update and Apple has walked back their more realistic peach emoji, with the latest iteration blending the suggestive qualities of previous versions but making it a slightly more specific.
- Investors typically want their portfolio companies to be chasing massive markets and most production methods for physical goods have high up front costs, which leaves lots of helpful but niche solutions left unbuilt. 3D printing for consumers is wildly over-hyped, but this collection of accessibility widgets demonstrates that the technology has made a real difference in many lives.
- After some high-profile exploits run on the so-called internet-of-things, the U.S. government has issued some security guidelines. Not exactly too little too late, but it's always best to start with a framework of threat-modeling and expecting abuses/breaches of new technologies rather than trying to play catch up with problems down the line.
- In 2016, we rely on algorithms for all kinds of things - to serve us relevant news stories, to route rideshares our way, and even to inform political campaign tactics. The Washington Post looks at the how Hillary Clinton's campaign relied on algorithmic planning to chart the course, and how that may have lead them down a road to failure.
- A video tour of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, designed to withstand all kinds of apocalyptic scenarios with precious seeds intact - in theory giving civilization a head start in rising up from the ashes through agriculture.