The Human Side of Technology

by Mike Shipulski

The Human Side of TechnologyTechnology has strong character traits; it has wants and desires; it plans for the future. It’s alive.

Technology continually tries to reinvent itself. And like rust, it never sleeps – it continually thinks, schemes, and plans how to do more with less (or less with far less). That’s Technology’s life dream, its prime directive – more with less. All day, every day it strives, reaches, and writhes toward more with less.

Technology needs our help along its journey. To do this we must understand its life experiences, understand its emotional state, and listen when it talks of the future. Like with a good friend, listening is important.

Technology has several important character traits which govern how it goes about its life’s work. Habitually, it likes to focus its energy on one a single subsystem and reinvents it, where the reinvented subsystem then puts strain on the others. It is this mismatch in capability among the subsystems that Technology uses to fuel innovation on the next subsystem. Its work day goes like this: innovate on a subsystem, create strife among the others, and repeat.

Technology likes to continually increase its flexibility. It feels better when it can stretch, bend, twist, and contort. It likes to develop pivot points, hinges, and rubbery algorithms that adjust to unexpected inputs and create novel outputs. Ultimately Technology wants to self-design and self-configure, but that’s down the road.

Technology likes to get into the details – the deeper the better. To do this it gets small. Here’s its rationale: small changes at the molecular or atomic levels roll up to big changes at the system level. A small change multiplied by Avogadro’s number makes for a big lever. Technology understands this.

Technology is frugal, not wasteful in any way, especially when it comes to energy. Its best party trick is to shorten energy flow paths. The logic: shorter energy paths result in less loss and a simpler product. You’ll see this in its next round of work in energy efficiency where it will move subsystems closer to each other to radically improve efficiency and radically reduce product complexity.

Technology knows where it wants to go, and has its favorite ways to get there. Our innovation engines will be more productive if they’re informed by its character.

(Special thanks to Victor Fey for teaching me about Technology’s character traits, which he calls lines of evolution.)

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Mike ShipulskiDr. Mike Shipulski (certfied TRIZ practioner) brings together the best of TRIZ, Axiomatic Design, Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (2006 DFMA Contributor of the Year), and lean to develop new products and technologies. His blog can be found at Shipulski On Design.

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