Lessons from history for technology designers

Longtime Foresight friend Robert Grudin has a new book Design and Truth, just reviewed by the New York Times.  The review quotes Grudin on designers:

“However grand their aspirations, they wait upon the will of people in power,” he writes. “And power, which can ratify the truth of good design, can, conversely, debase design into a fabric of lies.”

The moral of Mr. Grudin’s book is that designers should be true to themselves, as Rikyu was, and never compromise. “Good design enables honest and effective engagement with the world,” as he puts it. “Poor design is symptomatic either of inadequate insight or of a fraudulent and exploitative strategy of production. If good design tells the truth, poor design tells a lie, a lie usually related, in one way or another, to the getting or abuse of power.”

Designers of nanotech, AI, and other powerful technologies will need to think hard about what to design, and for whom.  Grudin’s book may help them make better decisions.  Published by Yale University Press, only $17 on Amazon.  See also Grudin’s Time and the Art of Living, and The Grace of Great Things: Creativity and Innovation.  —Chris Peterson

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