Welcome to Reflections Beneath the Surface. This is my digital notebook where I post my thoughts on design, technology, art and some other random stuff. It functions as a sketchbook where I collect the snippets that dwell in my mind. While researching subjects as a defigner I develop many side notes that might be interesting for others to read.
Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law states: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” But as with any magic trick, all the circumstances have to be right for it to work…
The pocket crystal
Marc Porat is a tech entrepreneur who had a vision of what he called a Pocket Crystal, a device that would seamlessly integrate with people’s lives and help them manage it and communicate with the world. Porat was one of the first people that had identified the coming information society and had written about it in his doctoral thesis called ‘The Information Economy’ in 1977 at Stanford. While at Apple in the end of the eighties he convinced then Apple CEO John Scully to greenlight a project to develop the ‘Pocket Crystal’. Porat demanded that the project would not be done internally at Apple, but at a separate company. Scully abided and General Magic was born. A team of top Apple engineers and developers was assembled and assigned to General Magic. Among whom a core team that created the Macintosh. What happened then was Silicon Valley’s version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
Continue reading “A failed concept is still a concept”
Designers love to create new things. The experience of something not being there and suddenly existing through decisions and actions on the part of the designer can be quite magical. But when that act of creation is finished and whatever is designed exists, the focus shifts to the next thing to design and the existing is left to its devices. Whatever happens to our creation is now the responsibility of someone else. This obsession with the ‘new’ and neglect of the ‘old’ is part of the reason we are in an ecological crisis. The ‘new’ has become a structural element of our thinking and our society.
The new can be seen as the technological equivalent of ‘fresh’. Our biologically programmed attraction to fresh fruits, vegetables and even sexual partners is an engrained survival mechanism. That mechanism has been hacked in a way to also accept the fruits of technology as belonging to it. Advertising plays to this fact by attaching the attributes of the biologically attractive to the technological. But designers also do that, by translating those attributes into material properties and creating a slew of shiny, glossy, smooth symmetrical objects. All this does not mean that the ‘old’ does not have something to contribute to this bio-technological complex of survival. The old is survival par excellence, because to become old you have to survive. The old is the embodiment of survival skill. It contains the know-how of becoming old, whether through resilience, adaptation, or communication. This knowledge base in humans is transmitted through stories , myth, religions etc. Having such a knowledge base ensures that the new can become old. Continue reading “Neo Old: Lifetime extension for discarded products”
We create money out of thin air to feed anorectic economic models
Business is shifting from what keeps the company busy to keeping consumers busy. This is the sense in which social media companies are businesses. Their clients are not the consumers. Those are the people they keep busy. Companies like Facebook are literally entertaining relationships. Time is a valuable commodity, so if you can get people to spend their time on what you offer, you can gather data on how they like to spend their time. That is the product they are selling. How consumers spend their time. What consumers perceive as valuable. Other companies can then relate the value of their product to that.
Companies like consumers can be early adopters. Usually they do so to find out if a certain new technology can benefit their business. But for a company adoption is more serious then for a consumer. A consumer benefits directly, because the adopted tech is used to consume a need. A company will use the adopted tech for the product or service they produce. The benefit is not actual but virtual. It may be actualized if the circumstances are right. Maybe it is better to be an early adapter. By that I mean that you try to understand what the principle is behind whatever new and upcoming technology and see if you can adapt to it.