Friday, June 06, 2014

The World Needs More Dialectic Thinking

The debate over Bowe Bergdahl is getting under my skin for the same reason that the debates over Edward Snowden, Obamacare, and most of the other talking head arguments in the media, politics, and among ourselves.  The basic problem seems to be that we never learned dialectic thinking.

It is actually pretty simple. I think Snowden is the clearest example because there are so many counterfactuals exist.  What if his actions created an important conversation for us to have and he ALSO should face the music in a US court of law for his actions?  Can both possibly be true?  YES!!!  That is called counterfactual thinking.  Taking two seemingly contradictory conclusions and resolving the conflict.  Take the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.  These brave individuals wanted to bring attention to the issues of discrimination and Jim Crow laws.  The best way to do that was through civil disobedience.  Breaking the law, bringing attention to the issue, and then ALSO doing the time.  In fact, doing the time made their actions MORE effective, not less.  They showed the world how committed they were and how important this movement was.  If they were willing to go to jail, we should all be willing to do something inconvenient.  And it keeps them on the side of propriety as well.  In STARK contrast, we are spending so much time debating whether Snowden is good or evil that we haven’t done jack about the issue.  Let’s agree that he is both and get on with what is important.

Same thing with Bergdahl.  Even if he did all the things that the rumor mill is suggesting (e.g. desertion), that doesn’t mean we prosecute the crime by leaving him in Taliban captivity.  If we have a policy not to leave POWs behind, then we get him back AND we prosecute him for desertion.  If the court martial finds him guilty fine.  Or not guilty, also fine.  But it should be done here, not there.  The other question is harder.  Did the trade violate our policy not to negotiate with terrorists?  Or is the Taliban a political group (after all, they did rule Afghanistan for many years)?  Again, let’s try some dialectic thinking.  Maybe they are BOTH.  And let’s find a way to deal with the challenge in a way that accepts this more complex reality.

Am I off my rocker here?

This Week in EID – Episode 7

I think I covered all the TGs this week in just four posts.  It just goes to show you how wide a scope that the Ergonomics in Design team is trying to serve.  We have a great community and we want you all to have a place to discuss practical topics in all areas of human factors and ergonomics.

Monday was throwback day as I waxed nostalgic about my high school part time job as a grocery store clerk.  The post focused on how box cutter design has changed since then.  I don’t use them much these days, but the article I shared showed that in industry, innovation is much more practical than it seems to be in the consumer space, where we just add functions at random to make products seem more jazzy. 

Tuesday’s post talked about the danger we are adding to our environment as we put automation everywhere.  It is not that our robots will become evil and take over the world a la Matrix.  But we have evolved to be very willing to offload cognitive effort whenever possible (I have a future post in the queue on that very topic).  And as we pay less and less attention to the environment because our automation is doing everything for us, we have less situation awareness and we deskill in those areas.  If something does go wrong, we take a long time to notice, are slow to figure out what exactly is going on, and may not have the skills to address it.

Wednesday’s post is a great example of the tremendous insights you can gain if you keep your eyes open.  A life insurance company learned that people who buy standby power generators are good candidates to pitch.  My point was that it is not because of their demographics, but because they have a similar psychographic attribute – they are both risk averse. 

Thursday’s post talked about the fine line between effective marketing and spam.  I fully understand why companies want to leverage customers by advertising to their friends/contacts.  A recommendation coming from a friend is tons more effective than a pitch directly from the company.  But this has to be a permission-based relationship.  Tricking your customers is not a good long term strategy.  That is Marketing 101, so I am really surprised at how many companies fall for this temptation.