Alternatives to harmful human centred design
Today, “human centred” design is, all too often, more harmful than human. What next?
Jussi Pasanen started having doubts that “design should be human centred” seeing how “human centred design is subordinate to businesses”, whose only purpose is to increase shareholder value by making as much money as possible, as quickly as possible.
Due to this dynamic, he concluded that “Design at scale only exists in service of capitalism”. It doesn’t matter how much “human centred” the actual design process is, if it is mostly used to produce stuff that has “significant negative structural impacts” which are not at all in the actual best interest of the its users.
Major examples of this problem, says Pasanen, are Airbnb, Uber and Amazon.
Airbnb and Uber “really are a pleasure to use”, but the first makes housing unaffordable to local residents, fueling overtourism, and, in turn, global pollution.
Similarly, Uber “takes out the thinking from organising transport” by exploiting drivers, with a strategy “almost immune to labor action” that may increase traffic congestion.
Amazon Prime is another “pinnacle of human centred design”… that accelerates the rush towards ecological and climate collapse. Is that really in the best interest of its customers?“, asks Pasanen.
Human centred design, concludes Pasanen, facilitates the lives of many people by “tirelessly making commerce easier, faster and more convenient, and therefore increasing material consumption and driving growth”. Therefore, human centred design should be called anthropocentric design, that indirectly facilitates the destruction of the living planet.
How I would fix human centred design
Pasanen’s post ends asking “Is now the time to start a conversation on this, and perhaps consider moving beyond human centred design?”
More than “anthropocentric”, I would say this design is “humans-only”, but we may have that discussion another day. Whatever we call it, the first thing to realize is that this design causes so many problems to human beings alone that it would need a serious reboot even if it were not harming the planet (which it is).
The usage of design that Pasanen criticizes is all about the wrong people facilitating the need for LESS human interaction, preferably for wealthier people (as in dating). The same abuse of design has created “behavior collection businesses” that reduce public rationality and human ability to deliberate.
How to fix it? One general fix would be slowness. Design things, from cars to e-commerce, that run slower, not faster. Social networks, for example, should not be allowed to be as instant as they are today.
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