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Fuck Your High-Minded Design

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Shlok Vaidya  -  
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AK_47_drawing

Here’s an ill-considered piece by Mike Monteiro wherein he argues that designers, out of responsibility, should, in response to being asked to design things that matter, things that need design solutions, “raise our hands and say ‘I’m not making this.'” Full quote:

And if we come to the conclusion that these products cannot be made safe, how many of us will see it as our responsibility to raise our hands and say “I’m not making this.”

(If the damn thing doesn’t damage anyone except who it is fired at, it’s safe in the context of a weapon, but, whatever, he’s the design expert.)

He goes on to rant about firearm design, making Kalashnikov out to be some sort of money-minting weapons fetishist and how designers cannot design well if the intent of the object is to kill.

Fuck him. Fuck the AK-47. Fuck all guns and the people who design them, but especially fuck Mikhail Kalashnikov, the designer of the AK-47.

Overall, it’s an adolescent’s petulant response to the real world, and, what pissed me off about it, is that it is one that does the design community a disservice.

Your role as a designer is to leave the world in a better state than you found it. You have a responsibility to design work that helps move humanity forward and helps us, as a species, to not only enjoy our time on Earth, but to evolve.

Great. But that’s not how the real world works. Yes, design can improve the world. But to do that, you have to engage with it, not hide behind your ideals.

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Remixing Today

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I’m remixing today to see tomorrow.

These are the pitches I’ve been posting to Twitter lately. I’ll compile them here every so often. Maybe with some expansion, maybe with the news stories that inspired them. Some may even turn into things. Read More


Agbogbloshie and Formalizing the Supply Chain

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…a scrap yard at the impossibly teeming Agbogbloshie market in Ghana’s capital, mining — along with hundreds of men and boys — for metal wires and parts that can be re-sold and burning the plastic that encases them. Hour after hour, their clanking tools pound apart computers and video game consoles that were discarded in the United States and Europe and shipped here to rot.

Demand drives supply. Supplies diminish. Over time, we recycle not because of altruism, but for profit, and as we melt away from advanced markets, who recycles, and how, expands to include anyone seeking profit. This is the ad-hoc infrastructure provision that fascinates futurists. As your average slum will substantiate, it’s filled with ingenuity, it has to be. It’s humans at work. Little pretense. Social order is organic, not rigorously structured.

For that simple reason, those ad-hoc supply chains will formalize, and the Uber, but for Copper, will have its own app, instead of a kid with a hammer handing it off to a brother in a rickshaw who delivers it to an uncle at the factory.

 


Extending Security, Extending Governance

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The service is essentially a geolocation-enabled emergency notification system which acts as an extension of one’s home alarm system.

Security, the protection of the physical self and property, was a service provided once by kings, then by nation-states. The theory of monopoly of violence.

A theory because there are no perfect monopolies. Not a hard shift, but blurry, gray transition, as time is wont to do.  Still, you don’t need to pack heat to protect the pasture, because there’s police departments and FBIs and CIAs and a DHS and a DoD. The point of providing violence as a service was so as to remove it from the day to day, and in turn, let humans unlock economic progress, better the species, enable more babies, and their survival.

Small, nimble, violence providers have challenged that monopoly. They found an alternative means of improving their station in life, of upward mobility, by flying planes into buildings. Detonating our buses. Triggering wars, underpinning economies of violence, exploiting it all to expand their reach.

And, even as we fight the good fight, it becomes clear that this is a chronic, not an acute illness. Unlike the wars of our fathers, this is without end. And, it will give rise to a new generation of governance.

One where security is provided for a fee. Without the trappings of a state. It’s not shrouded in taxes and flags. It’s not decorated uniforms. It’s black armor. It’s a giant red button on your phone. It’s not sirens, it’s a black helo, it’s fast-roping, and its security, violence incarnate, exactly where you need it, when you need it. It is not laws and solving for after the fact, violence as a service, now.

It’s firing one company by deleting it from your phone, and claiming the services of another pseudo-state by downloading another. It’s reading five-star app reviews describing rape-prevention and taking down a drone-stalker.

It’s reading 1-star reviews, penned by family members, where these new governments failed.

 

 


On Phase Shifts

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We go through phase shifts.

You apply work, and luck, and network to whatever you’re doing. Complexity builds. As it does, you can glimpse the adjacent future, what could be next, the phase after this. And it builds and it builds. And, as is natural, complexity shakes out to simplicity. The applications, the dates, the words, turn into the job, the relationship, the book.

I’ve done this professionally a few times. From school to terror, from terror to tech, from tech to music, from music to corporate, from writing to writing. The process clarifies over time. The goals don’t. They’re opaque until they’re not.

This is the first time I’ve done it on a personal level. Purposefully give no fucks, meet anybody and everybody, drink too much, don’t work as much as I used to/should, read less, watch more. Generally move forward but try to act without purpose. Do instead of think. Do instead of plot. Fail without noticing instead of fail with everything. Randomness. Chaos. New complexity at every step. Line up opportunities instead of executing on them.

The result is new, good friends, amazing girls new, and old, and interesting work.

It’s been a while since I wrote something here. Or anywhere, really. But moreso now than when it was the work expected of me, I’m writing. On warfare, on ambition, on technology. All while I’m at the heart of a desperate attempt to turn around 80-year-old, half-a-billion-dollar turnaround that touches hundreds of millions of people every day.

I won’t promise more, or even regular public writing. The complexity is still building. But I see what could be, and that my words are the means.

There’s a shift ahead.