Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

May 2018

Living in A Future Present

The reflection starts in using augmented memories. What was an an enjoyable time of food, drinks, and dancing is now nothing more than a hyperlink and several siloed conversations to be pulled upon until it fades from the collective consciousness, or until it’s made more permanent thru the positive or negative celebrity of another trope. This is life in this augmented age.

When looking at the technologies in use, we have a nearly-theological viewpoint of them: either we use them becuase they enable us to embrace a view of ourselves we otherwise couldn’t, or we don’t use them because to do so would portend some kind of denial of agency. Neither is untrue. In fact, both seem to be true at the same time. It merely depends on what might be our motivation at the time. As fleeting as such motivations are, we end up flopping between, or maybe gliding precariously to one end or the other. Never really knowng which end is true, until something changes our motivations through some transfer of value.

It is in this philosophical state to wonder about the devices and services we use. Are they merely augmenting senses which have fallen into dis-use? We don’t hear as well and so there are hearing aids. We don’t see as well, so comes corrective lenses in fashionable frames — this is important, we have a disability but want to remain on the side of reputation where that disability is a mark of respect, not of scorn. Or, perhaps we have orthopedics, orthodontics, or mark our workspace with ergonomic bumps and markers so that we ensure some level of the appropriate signaling, along with making sure we achieve some agreed to level of productivity or performance. These are merely augmentations to senses right?

Yet, it seems the wave of activity, or at least the increasingly loud tones of conversations, falls towards the technologies which speak to memory and perception. We don’t use the camera in order to see what we could not, we use it in order to signal that we were a part of something along with others, or to remember an artifact by context, or to imbue some matter of importance to another. We have listening devices to fall away into states of meditation whether to be productive or quiet ourselves — but do so against the framing of “these series of sounds will soothe and allow me to flow.” These are the parts of technologies which don’t augment so much as they reinforce. They reinforce our moods, our modes, and even our biases. Neither wrong nor right, they do hammer home a point — the moment isn’t enough, you’ve got to be able to retrieve it in order for its value to be taken in full.

While editing, there was a thought which arose from a current read:

The near-future of work is to be productive, with a knowledge of one state of wellness, in order to increase the value of and impacts of unique interested tools and behaviors

Productivity is theology of getting more out of a moment’s investment than what was put into it. The tools of productivity enable us to retreat towards what should have stood in memory, or enhance a particular set of senses for an omnipotent creation-ing. The way work seems to be going, we seem to at one point want to move from the frail methods and products of memory towards sensory-augmentation, and at the same time fear productivity as we’ve remembered it to be shaped by more than the KPIs of well-heeded management.

As Snap Spectacles find their way into use beyond eye protection and event capturing, there’s a sense that using them portends a different type of future. One which can just barely be grasped about during this present — yet its just far enough away to feel like something we might never reach. Our eyes will become more than input controls. Our behaviors will be more than responding to what we’ve seen. We just might have a future-present where it matters more that we use all of our senses, than we display modes that we even had them.