Just Because You Can?

A while back I had occasion to review the design of a very high-end residence hall facility at an institution of higher learning I can’t name. It is not in the US, so it is unlikely your alma-mater.

There seemed to be no limit on the budget. Each room was equipped with full digital video/voice/data and Internet connectivity. Outside each room a digital touchscreen “whiteboard” where the occupant could leave messages for their buds, who could then leave replies.

Students carried an ID card that gave them building access, paid for their purchases, started the washers and dryers, and most likely unknown to them, tracked their movements. Since the students were members of wealthy families, security was extensive. One goal of the security system was to restrict male student access to female resident halls. There was even discussion of devices that could identify gender remotely. (There were none.)

The consequence of all this was outrageous cost, not to mention a system management nightmare. I don’t know if it all ever worked, but I rather doubt it.

So where am I going with this? Just a mini-rant about technology and what we do with it. We as a technological civilization now have resources and the mind to control our lives and world in minute detail.

A lot of it, particularly medical advancements can be valuable. I have a relative who had bypass surgery twice in her 50’s, a couple of stings, a mastectomy, and two broken hips. She will be 94 this year. Had she been born 20 years earlier, she would have lived half as long. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that we know too much about our health. I have a grandson who was born with a particular heart issue. It has and will cause anxiety for his parents for years to come. It is hereditary, and I have the same issue, but I was 60-something before I found out rather accidentally. I lived most of my life not knowing, and with no impact on my life. In truth I don’t know which scenario is best.

But I veer.

There is a point to my rant. Just because you can do something does not mean you should.

Apply the “What Idiot” test to your designs. Ten years from now — or next week, will someone say, “What idiot thought of this?”

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