ry depends upon his not und…the opinions of only guild-certified insiders in a matter this grave? That would sit awkwardly with Upton Sinclair’s dictum that it’s “difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” This tendency scales with salary size — and A.I. experts are known to pull down seven figures even …
…ing a seal pup shimmy onto a rock, we might pull out our phone to take a picture, only to find that what we experienced as grand feels dinky through the lens. But these experiences often look cheap and grimy in person. They’re made to pop on camera.
This is a thing about ambition: It takes a lot of personal strength to be surrounded by people who are all reaching for the same brass ring and not think that you should be reaching for it too — regardless of whether you really like brass, or rings.
If I design for the full life cycle of my reusable water bottle, I may have a more sustainable water bottle, but I have not created a systemic solution for our plastics problem. I have not changed the economic incentives driving plastic culture. I have not solved for the distribution and financial issues that make single-use bottled water more accessible. I have not solved for the public health issues that make single-use bottled water significantly safer in many areas. And I have not solved for all the other applications of single-use plastics.
A recent study on ride-sharing apps, a category of companies heavy on user-centered design, found that ride sharing adds 2.6 vehicle miles to city traffic for every one mile of personal driving removed. Ride-sharing apps actually make traffic in cities worse.
Human-centered design is all about focus. It’s about observing the big picture and then zeroing in on a manageable set of insights and variables, and solving for those. By definition, this means the process pushes the designer to actively ignore many of a problem’s facets. And this kind of myopic focus doesn’t work when you’re trying to solve something systemic.
That brings me to what these few projects I’ve mentioned have in common. The artist creates a structure — whether that’s a map or a cordoned-off area — that holds open a contemplative space against the pressures of habit and familiarity that constantly threaten to close it. This architecture of nothing is something I frequently think about at the rose garden, which is not…
In nature, things that grow unchecked are often parasitic or cancerous. And yet, we inhabit a culture that privileges novelty and growth over the cyclical and the regenerative. Indeed our very idea of productivity is premised on the idea of producing something new, whereas we do not tend to see maintenance and care as productive in the same way.