Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Design Of Future Things

In this latest book we've read by Don Norman, he discusses his thoughts on what things will look like in the future. He talks a lot about cars and home appliances. Much of his focus is centered on automating many processes, essentially taking humans out of the loop. I think it is this that he is wrong. Humans will continually demand to make the decisions and be in control, so while certain things he suggests, such as lane keeping and adaptive cruise control, will make driving safer, the technology available will not be fully implemented: humans will always have the final say.

Although he discusses it only briefly, in passing, I believe augmentation is the future of everyday objects. Augmentation, as opposed to automation, exists to help a human with a task, rather than doing it for them. He gives the example of a kitchen system the will help a cook know where they left off in preparation for dinner, provided pictures of the steps just completed, rather than making dinner for the person.

Although I believe technology will advance to the capacity to enable automation of most items, it would be foolish of companies to assume that customers want fully automated devices. It will be much wiser to develop systems that fluidly augment the activities of their users. Humans want to be in control of what they do. People enjoy certain everday activities that could be fully automated: cooking, driving, choosing their own music, reading their own books rather than listening to a voice reading to them, dressing themselves. 

I believe Don Norman missed the nature of humans when he failed to give more attention to augmentation than automation.


  1. I agree that the future is augmentation and not automation. Humans by their nature do things, somethings require some assistance (augmentation), but little needs to be fully automated for us. I am sure he has another book in the works to milk more people of their money where he will only talk about augmentation.

  2. I felt the same way about the extent he went with automation. People love to control things and will not freely give that up.