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Archive for December, 2011

Virtual Design

The relationship between form and function has been severed by the relentless substitution of information for experience and focusing on desirability over reliability. Refrigerators designed by people who have obviously never cleaned one and may never have one long enough to bother; cars designed for southern driving sold as viable transportation in northern conditions come to mind. Products are designed for sale; not for use. Function in a world of virtual design and marketing madness ends at the checkout – which of course moves the money but leaves the demand, ideal for corporate bottom lines.

Fuel efficiency is measured on highways; not in snowdrifts beside the road where all vehicles become equal. Maybe to truly improve vehicle efficiency we need to keep them on their path…maybe linked together running on tracks, powered by electricity, driven by experienced professionals…maybe throw in a bar car and smart phone cubicles where people could be safely and comfortably impaired and distracted. It could be called high-speed rail. Unfortunately that doesn’t address the marketing aspect very well and does nothing to transfer money to banks by way of interest on car loans. It simply doesn’t meet the standards set for consumer subservience.

Cars are a great example of design for market share rather than solution but the model is all the rage. Pharmaceutical empires put their design talents in marketing and legal fees, not the product. Packaged food, covered with empty promises and filled with empty calories, has replaced nutritious food. When we stopped knowing where our food came from we should have realized we would soon not recognize it at all. Good food isn’t designed – it is grown, cooked and eaten. Food, like so much in life, doesn’t improve with unnatural processes or involve lengthy explanations. If it takes more than a couple of seconds to read a package and understand it, don’t eat the contents.

The next time you are purchasing a tool for the kitchen or the workshop try the one that doesn’t come in a box that looks just too special for the job and one that doesn’t speak more languages than you require. You might even explore the possibility of a handsaw or mixing bowl as the best solution.

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Functional illiterates may be better suited to the future than non-functional literates.

As the European debt crisis is so eloquently demonstrating savvy oratory doesn’t solve problems, it exacerbates them – it makes us believe in silly things reality simply doesn’t acknowledge. Farmers, on whom theorists depend, well know an inspired dissertation delivered to the most promising seeds doesn’t get the job done; life is very pragmatic and unflinching faced with theory. Gale force winds against a small boat on open water may go well with a smart Chardonnay while reading about it on the couch but in reality the situation is more likely to elicit a white-knuckled, unencumbered cry to the heavens for help without a single concern about split infinitives.

As I have beautiful wood that needs a stern lecture on becoming furniture and flour in need of a lesson on becoming bread I must now go help the world become a better place in the mind of one – literally.

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A quarter of a century in information technology has taught me:

Information is more dependable than reality.

Whacky ideas become facts through consensus.

Completely incorrect data can be extremely accurate.

Reading an account of experience is more valuable than actual experience.

When statistical probability is calculated really quickly it is called artificial intelligence.

The value of information is inversely proportional to the cost of storing it.

Guessing becomes science three points after the decimal.

Data models follow the example of fashion models.

Compelling graphs celebrate the mundane well.

Research and plagiarism are synonymous.

Ideas are commodities.

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