Humane technology

By Boris Marinov.

It is a well-known engineering principle, that you should always use the weakest technology capable of solving your problem - the weakest technology is likely the cheapest, easiest to maintain, extend or replace and there are no sane arguments for using anything else.

We can argue that this is the principle behind the evolutionary process that designed us human beings - evolution always starts from rudimentary and the weak and then, only if needed, it proceeds towards greater strength and complexity.

Technologies (as Marshal McLuhan theorized) can be perceived as extensions of our bodies and minds. Like, a pair of binoculars can be thought as an organ that extends our vision with additional lenses. And the written word is nothing more than an extension of our ability to talk and memorize. Technologies that embrace this view with all it’s implications are what I call humane technologies and they are the subject of this book. My main thesis is that they have many advantages over technologies that focus too much on superficial criteria and ignore these principles (AKA non-humane technologies.)

Humane technologies solve problems in ways that don’t create other problems.

Inhumane technologies sometimes leaves us at a state where we have to remind ourselves why exactly do we use them. Yes, they benefit us in some ways, but these benefits always come with a cost which seems almost equal to the benefits.

This dilemma doesn’t exist with humane technologies - we know exactly why we use them and their disadvantages always seem superficial, compared to their advantages.

Humane technologies leave the user in control.

Whether they are broken, or operating as intended, inhumane technologies often look like they have a will of their own and they often surprise you unpleasantly. With human technologies, on the contrary, you always know exactly what is gonna happen. And in case there is a problem, you often know what the issue is and how to fix it. Humane technologies are not black boxes.

Humane technologies are timeless.

Because they are often a result of a compromise, inhumane technologies are bound to have a due date - a time when some other alternative would prove to be more performat. Inhumane technologies tend to go out of fashion. Human technologies, on the other hand, are often ancient (due to their simplicity), and at the same time, due to their versatility, eternal.

Humane technologies are fulfilling to use.

An inhumane technology is something that you pick up to “do your job” and leave it as soon as you are done, wondering when is a better alternative coming out. They are designed with a specific purpose in mind and they have no other uses. A humane technology often has a variety of purposes (with more to be discovered). We use them for more and more things, because using them feels good. We either cannot imagine our lives without them (if we have used them since birth), or bless the day we found them.

Humane technologies are unimpressive

Inhumane technologies often look better than humane ones, especially to the untrained eye - they are so shiny, so innovative, they look like they bring the promise of a better future. Compared to them, humane technologies seem plain and uninteresting. However, all that changes when we put things in perspective.

Read the complete text on Humane Technology.