Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Aug 2023

All the Personal Computing One Needs

AirPods Pro 2 and Brilliant Labs Monocle sitting on a wooden table

Sitting in a cafe, thinking about what’s happening with the hardware side of computing and wonder how much longer before we get to just having these “matchbox-sized devices” as all the computing that’s needed?

Granted, neither the AirPods Pro or Monocle are able to do much themselves right now. But, local learning models plus “connectivity when needed” (local-first approaches) could really take personal computing and make it truly personal. Even with the various ways folks are using their devices in the cafe (laptop and over the ear headphones, a person just on their mobile, and another using their mobile alongside books/hand-written notes, there’s this sense that the screen really needs to be more malleable. And even then, interaction needs to be less a rule, and more of a “feel.”

If there really is a problem with the interface, then yes, this kind of transformation might beget not just a different relationship with the technologies, but also ourselves. What does that mean in the short-term? Means we deal with the social juggling of what is and isn’t permissible. We juggle with the intensity of being connected to and affirmed by bells we might not have a full understanding about. It may simply mean we just hold onto more than we should… because we aren’t sure of what we really should be holding on to.

Have found the term “essentialist” coming up into more conversations lately. Not minimalist - reducing to the the very smallest amount - nor a maximalist - using all that is able to be used within one’s bounds - but merely being able to sit with what’s essential. This changes in each moment, in each state. Sometimes it is having the depths of plans in place for organizational stability. Other times it is being ok with the surprise of plans changing moment by moment. Having what’s needed for the moment is the essential property. And this requires living in the moment, not supposing for something larger or smaller. When looking at the AirPods Pro and Monocle sitting there, it asks the question - what is essential for this very spot you are in? There’s something altogether invisible yet transparent about the tech in this. How we respond dictates living with what is essential, or making essential all things.

This construct is harder still for the teams and individuals being challenged with establishing firm steps for an unfamiliar future. If all that was needed could be put into a matchbox, and hidden in/near our pockets, how would our perception of the possible change? How would our posture towards the present be affirmed or handicapped? Are we comfortable then with what we have? Or, are our needs better contained within the thing that’s familiar, and less under our control?

Image via personal Flickr