The Work Place

The intellectual work place

Printing press, Cheap paper, Paper based bureaucracy, paper based working.

We invented this lifestyle – 

this way of working to do knowledge work.

To sit at the desk and stare at your little tiny rectangle
and make little motions with your hand.

This is what it means to do knowledge work nowadays.
This is what it means to be a thinker.

This is basically just an accident of history.

This is the way how our media technology happened to evolve
and we designed a kind of knowledge work for that media
that we happened to have.
Bret Victor, „The Humane Representation of Thought“1

Default-aligned image Bret Victor, Source: Wikipedia

In his talk "The Humane Representation of Thought", Bret Victor, a brilliant designer and engineer criticizes the human negligence surrounding technological progression, specifically in that it is not designed to maximize human capabilities. Human capabilities are our ways to naturally be good at interacting with something. These capabilities are physiognomical and mental. Bret Victor refers to the development of the intellectual workspace as a space that just "happened to be", rather than a place we have thought through. The difference between a happening rather than a plan, is negligence. The centuries-old intellectual work describes the place where we sit at a table staring at a rectangle. And yet so we do today.

Default-aligned image Der Heilige Hieronymus im Gehäus, Albrecht Dürer, 1514, Source: Wikipedia

Medieval German artist Albrecht Dürer did a Kupferstich (copper etching) on Hieronymus, archetype of the intellectual, showing him in his natural habitat. With Guttenbergs notable invention of the printing press in 1440, mankind has drifted towards a Hieronymous-esque life-style of staring at a rectangle all day long, and somehow being able to make a living from it.

Origin

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The challenge of leveraging human capabilities for technology design

With Moore's law, an unparalleled, exponential evolution between technological devices and human DNA can be observed.
Technology evolves at a rate so rapid that human beings cannot adapt to it with their bodies to any extent. Human minds are more agile in comparison, but the adaptability against technology has already reached its limits.
Thus mankind is obliged to design technology to compliment existing human capabilities if one seeks to innovate intelligently.

It's not like we're not already trying to do this: current technological innovations wouldn't exist otherwise. However, the progression of AI and automation will only cease to speed up, exponentially requiring reduction efforts of friction in man-machine interfaces.

→ The 18 ways of thinking

Last Edited on April 25, 2019, 8:00 PM
. Published by Daniel Seiler, edited by Camilla Burchill


  1. Bret Victor, The Humane Representation of Thought, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agOdP2Bmieg