engineering a better experience
Tuesday, June 05, 2012 (Updated )

The Future Takes Time

by The Metaist


As some parts of society evolve faster than others, we should remember to be patient with the process.


(Photo: Alexander Boden at Flickr)



Some areas of society have changed so rapidly that the lack of change in other areas is noticeable. Below are some things that appear to exist only by virtue of the status quo.


Invisible Script: You go to school to become an X. From that point on you introduce yourself as an X and people assume you're like those other X people they know.

Why do people assume they'll always have this career? If economic conditions change, what are you going to do when we don't need X's anymore? Riot? Demand more jobs? Yeah good luck with that.

Security (or any real Policy)

Theater: We should try to stop all terrorists. We can do this by reacting to every attempt to scare us.

Reality Check: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. What about some evidence-based policy? Yeah, that'll lead to policy-based evidence making. We'll need to be careful about that.

Corporate Behavior

Why do corporations / politicians (notable exceptions aside) behave as though we're not humans? (I have a theory; more on this later.)

So people who lost much of their savings are likely to stick around in jobs longer—together with people who really dislike their jobs. As a result, Dilbert becomes a passive-agressive signal of displeasure at work.

Law (especially Intellectual Property)

Billable hours seems like a crap way to make money. That's just my opinion though. However, it does seem like the legal profession is ripe for a huge refactoring.

Regarding intellectual property: the number of legitimate reasons for claiming to own an idea are dwindling. They are non-zero, but the reality of society is that we have made it exceedingly easy to share and remix ideas, so restricting that behavior results in restricting culture.

Putting it All Together

Technology is changing faster than the larger society can adapt. There are waves of adaptation. First, a small community of people engage with a technology and start to explore its potential (e.g., the Internet and GPS started as military applications). Next, a group of dedicated folks start to push the limits of the technology. Later, the technology becomes a commodity. Yet, the social and legal implications are rarely known at this point. Then, after a protracted incubation period, the social norms become established. Finally, the legal precedents and rulings are adjusted to make sense of where we ended up.

But the process is long and arduous and there's no guarantee we'll come out for the better. And while we should be patient, we should argue against policies for status quo's sake.

See Also