Your design-focused May/June 2007 issue was very interesting and thought-provoking, but I think it missed an opportunity to focus attention on the most pervasive problems of electronic- product design.
Several experts and writers equated operational simplicity with minimal functions, and several cited the iPod as an example of gaining simplicity by avoiding feature creep. But the history of the iPod is feature creep itself. It started out as a music player. Now it plays music, podcasts, video, and games; it can act as a stopwatch or alarm clock, show you the time in other world cities, maintain your contacts and calendar, show photos, allow you to read text files, and serve as a backup hard drive. Why does it remain simple to use? Because all the functions work the same way. The user needs to learn only one rule about the interface and can apply it to every function on the device.
Point Roberts, WA
Changing Human Nature
I read with interest the essay by philosopher Roger Scruton (“The Trouble with Knowledge,” May/June 2007), since I enjoy seeing things in new ways and respect philosophers for their penetrating insight and clear logic. But I found neither in Scruton’s piece.
Scruton fears that future technology will enable men and machines to interact in increasingly intimate ways and eventually merge to the degree that human nature itself is altered. He is terrified of this possibility.
But what, exactly, is so great about human nature that he is so scared of its changing? One need only read a newspaper to see, not only that human nature is deeply flawed, but also that it is human nature not to need a reason to believe something that makes you feel good; it is human nature to believe whatever superstitions you were taught as a child. Scruton certainly seems to. When he starts to mention God, and refers to the Fall of Adam, I suspect that nobody is going to get much of a clear and rational discussion from him.
East Boothbay, ME
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