Today's technology thinks you suck

Originally published at:


Pretty sure that’s fucking capitalism’s fault, not technology’s.

Woo-soaked hippies blame science for capitalism, too.


The technology we use expects us to behave like machines, he says, and when we fail, we get all the blame.

The designers of the technology expect that, often because they themselves behave like machines. I understand the impetus, the benefit of trying to do everything on the basis of logic and pure reason. But computer and digital and network technology is now consumer technology, and any given consumer is more Kirk than Spock.


I’m an inhouse web developer at a large nonprofit. Our work is deeply human and squishy, and I work every day hand in hand with our staff trying to make sure the systems I build follow and enhance their natural workflows rather than influence them or force them to change.

For a couple of our much larger statewide initiatives we have a contract with a software firm whose been building similar systems in other states. I consult on calls with the software developer and listen as my people get mansplained, bullied and condescended to about their workflows because it’s cheaper for the developers to build something dumb and universal that they can sell with minimal adjustments to all their clients rather than be nimble and human

I’m in the middle of trying to convince a few colleagues on these bigger projects to let me prototype exactly what they want, rather than try to wrestle an overpriced compromise solution out of the contractor. The bullying and negging has worked though, and they are obsessed with the idea that the contractor is more “official” because they treat my colleagues like they don’t know what they’re talking about.

It’s a microcosm of this Stockholm Syndrome that many people in power have with silicon valley. A combination of sunk cost fallacies and believing the hype that software developers know everyone else’s work better than they do. It’s started keeping me up at night. The idea that this is bleeding into everyday life, that we are letting software developers decide how we live to fit with their model/business plan is fucking terrifying.


I agree with the gist, but I see a lot of complaints with no actual solution.

Is there a better way for us to be able to use sensitive information on the internet that doesn’t include passwords and security questions?

If there is not a more people-centric way of doing this, are we supposed to just not have that anymore?

Also, marveling at something in a new city is great and a positive thing. Doing so while driving a car is a DISTRACTION. Just because it’s great in one instance doesn’t mean it always is. If you are being distracted by things when you should be concentrating on safety, that is YOUR fault for not keeping the distractions away or ignoring them (including beautiful sights in a new city.)

And alarm clocks? Really?

But yeah, I do agree with the gist and feel we are overwhelmed with tech sometimes. (Or allow ourselves to be. One does not HAVE to go along with it, even if it’s your job. It’s up to the individual.) Individually, everything is one small step. Together, there’s always so much going on to track.

ETA: Yes, if 90% of car accidents are due to human error and “being distracted”, even though I feel it’s the individuals’ fault if they are distracted by their tech, the problem obviously needs fixing. I would rather have my phone turn itself off if I am moving faster than an arbitrary amount in the interests of safety. Yes, it’s punishing everyone for the actions of a few, but I’d rather see the number of car crashes from texting while driving go down.

Even more ideally would be for people to realize they should NOT engage in other activities of any kind while driving but that would take quite a change in society. Still, I think it’s achievable someday.


The causes of the problems need to be identified in order to pursue solutions - seems pretty apparent to me that the ubiquitous array of perverse incentives brought about by capitalism lie at the heart of the vast majority of such problems. You can choose to make money, or choose to make sense, but it’s pretty damn hard to do both.

And how do we solve the problem of capitalism? It seems to be driven by a fear that there isn’t enough to go around, and a lack of faith in humanity… pretty difficult problems to solve, but given (hypothetical) social structures that actually make the best of our natural resources and the fact that most people aren’t sociopaths, I think it seems reasonably achievable. But it’s a chicken-and-egg problem; we kind of need a clean sheet somehow.

I’ve been pondering the password problem for a bit, and I keep coming to the conclusion that the only robust solution would be some sort of potentially Orwellian citizen ID system, that could only really fly if we had a global socialist utopia; a government we could trust (because the government is us), with nowhere for bad actors to hide.


Hey, flagging that post is not taking it in the spirit in which it was offered.

Did anyone who flagged it notice I also liked the post I quoted?

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wasn’t me, dude. I never mind a little good natured editing from a fellow regular.


I doubted it.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Capitalism thinks you suck :confused:


An expert is someone doing your job but seven miles down the road.


Don Norman’s work is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to build human-centered engineering solutions. He’s been involved (as a consultant, not an instigator) in some dubious stuff like hybrid vehicle noisemakers, and has more than a little tunnel vision, but at the same time he’s really tapped into some very important concepts and paradigms; he’s even developed a specialized language for working with user interfaces that expands one’s design capabilities and, in competent hands, will improve the quality of one’s work.

I think the point that Mark’s making, which indeed Norman makes as well, is not complete without this XKCD strip:

This is how I explain computer problems to my cat. My cat usually seems happier than me.


That XKCD is fucking gold.


Yeah that sounds so much worse then somehow waking up far before daylight, walking into my backyard to pee and conduct other such business in a small shed, wrapping a hot-now-but-not-really-later lunch in some rags, and carrying them a few miles to the mines where I might glimpse the dawn before I go underground for the whole of the day hoping not to die…or maybe hoping to die.

Today ain’t perfect by a long shot, but it is so much better in so many ways then life was 100, 200, or 1000 years ago. Being a noble 500 years ago is frankly worse in almost every way then being middle class now (although you did get a lot of cheep human labour to take care of things that human labour could actually take care of, that one part is worse, as an obvious consequence of humans now expecting and getting enormously more for labour)

By all means look to improve life with technology, but it is a mistake to ignore how much better things actually are.


Like I said, technology itself isn’t the problem here.

You’re talking about how the materials and parts that make the computer you’re typing on were produced, right?

Because you’re describing the life of the people we’ve outsourced American jobs to, and the business practices our everyday purchases are sustaining.

Very solid point. Overall, there are fewer people living in slavery and want than before modern labor saving technologies became ubiquitous. But we can’t look at technology as an unalloyed good, it’s a tool, that provides us Xrays and chainsaws and birth control pills, and that tool is being both used and abused.

It’s not inherently the problem, but it’s not detached from the problem, either. It took technology to create a system that allows us to ignore the horrors we fund with our everyday spending, by hiding it in the third world and shipping only the products into our sparkly first world wonderlands.

And I don’t want to overrun Don Norman’s favorite point - that good design can make a technological product an asset, that helps a human do more and be more human, while bad design can make something that could have been rewarding and healthy into a source of frustration and despair. @HMSGoose gives a great example of the human dynamics that can make it happen earlier in the thread.


The feeling is mutual.

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I get the PRE tech world is worse BUT look back in 10 year steps IE 2010 2000 1990 ETC
and post 1950s through to around 2000 most of the jobs were 8 hour 5 days a week and not so dangerous that you will likely DIE from them but as soon as you “punched out” the JOB was gone and you went home and lived the rest of the day forgetting about the job and its demands
NOW as the article is pointing out we go home and take our jobs with us through our phones and always available tech
our personal tech is making US HAVE to deal with everything at once all the time and on top of it TECH it self needs attention and maintenance
IMHO it is the 24-365 availability that is doing the most “harm” more then infosec and “maintenance” of tech


The real world expects us to behave like machines. Try getting a drink of water without having to know obscure facts, line things up precisely and so on. It’s like the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics. If you aim wrong with that rock, you smash your fingers, not the nut. As someone who has never gotten that “walking” stuff down cold, I’m always bumping into or tripping over things. It’s a totally screwed up design.

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In a perfect world we could learn good human centric design without listening to a blowhard.