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UXCamp Brighton: About humans, technology and chasing tail

Speaker: @vivdoc.

UX people think about technology in a narrow way: digital technology, and user interfaces. But how does tech relate to humanity?

Definition (not a Wikipedia definition): the act of manipulating the environment to extend our natural capabilities in order to fulfil our needs.

Needs: range from food and shelter to complex social needs like respect.

Tools: anything that lets us manipulate the environment around us.

What makes us different from our species is we are awesome at making tools (Space Shuttle!). Bipedalism and opposable thumbs: opposable thumbs lets us manipulate the environment, gather fine-grained data from the environment, need brain to manipulate that information.

Brains are bigger than other species. Our brains have grown to process the extra information we gather from our environment. Not just our physical environment but mental environment: an abacus lets us extend and improve our mental processing just like a drill lets us extend our physical process by making more accurate holes.

There is a downside: technology makes us lazier. It magnifies us, including our bad parts. It can’t make us into something different. There is no technological process. It’s more like a dog chasing a tail. Human need leads to the creation of technology, technology makes human needs more complex, which leads to more technology, and so on.

Should we give up? No. It is part of what makes us human.

So what should we do?

Users are animals too. We are creating things that cater for people’s needs.

Perhaps we should empathise with technophobes and luddites: they perhaps see the other side, the negative side of the coin.

The technology that will succeed in the future will be that which has built on the successful technology of the past.