Thought begat speed

In a lovely piece shared by Erin about the life of data bits (What Bits Want), there’s a particularly well put line on a topic that keeps troubling me as a designer:

“Increasingly, it is cheaper to store data than to figure out whether it should be erased.”

It has become so easy to do a thing, that we no longer need to question if we should even do it. It has become easier not to think about something. It is advantageous not to think about an action. No matter how I put this, I find our increasing opportunity to not have to think about things disturbing.

Yes, the quote is about not thinking about data storage and not about thoughtlessly declaring war on another country, but, the same technology and innovation that’s making data storage a thoughtless act is developing and driving autonomous weapon systems, like the X-47B aka Salty Dog 502* which landed itself on an aircraft carrier for the first time in 2013:

I’m taking the fear over the top perhaps, from bits to bombs, but both examples point to the fact that we’re spending more time and energy on helping people to not think, than is perhaps healthy. Having a small group of clever people write software and build tech that allows the majority to think less. 

For more on this paranoid fear, see Idiocracy or Wall-E where our pacifying-dystopian fate is taken to the extreme (and put far more elegantly and entertainingly than I can do in writing). Or read 1984. This isn’t a new idea, I realise that, but it’s the idea that design is playing the trojan horse role for our dystopia, rather than policy or politics that’s worrying.

Just realised the slight irony here with Apple referencing 1984 in their famous 1984 Macintosh ad

*Giving a scary weapon a funny name is a great way to lessen the social impact, isn’t it. Growing up I remember thinking how fun the bouncing bomb sounded when my dad watched Dam Busters.

8 August 2014. 11.00am. La Bouche  35–37 Broadway Market, London, E8 4PH. Accompanied by a free water with lemon in it (3/10 – I can’t stand lemon in water).