Bottom line is that if you consider the design of the experience (interaction design, visual design, and for devices, industrial design) as critical to the success of the product as I do, then you’ll want to make sure to treat UX design as the first-class activity it needs to be. The designers have to be first-class members of their product teams, sitting right next to their product manager and engineers, and truly collaborating on devising the blend of functionality, experience and technology that can result in a winning product.
Modern computers and computer networks enable human judgment to be automated, to be exercised on a vast scale and at a breathtaking pace. But it’s still human judgment. Algorithms are constructed by people, and they reflect the interests, biases, and flaws of their makers. As Google’s founders themselves pointed out many years ago, an information aggregator operated for commercial gain will inevitably be compromised and should always be treated with suspicion. That is certainly true of a search engine that mediates our intellectual explorations; it is even more true of a social network that mediates our personal associations and conversations.

And that’s my point. Comic Book Guy isn’t having any fun. He’s bored — and he’s boring. Bart and Milhouse are having fun. They’re excited and interested. They get it — it’s about being a kid again. The whole point of a comic or a book or a movie or a TV show is to be a kid and have fun. It’s about trusting the author/filmmaker to take you on an exciting journey — not a dark ride, but a journey of discovery. You can’t do that if you’re watching the lighting, the editing, the camera angle, the dialog, the acting — you gotta let go and be a kid again.

You want me to be a big bad grownup and analyze it critically? Pay me. I don’t work on spec.

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We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be. The only problem is that there is also so much other stuff, typically fixations with how people perceive us, how to get more of the things that we think will make us happy, and with keeping our weight down. So the real issue is how do we gently stop being who we aren’t? How do we relieve ourselves of the false fronts of people-pleasing and affectation, the obsessive need for power and security, the backpack of old pain, and the psychic Spanx that keeps us smaller and contained?

Here’s how I became myself: mess, failure, mistakes, disappointments, and extensive reading; limbo, indecision, setbacks, addiction, public embarrassment, and endless conversations with my best women friends; the loss of people without whom I could not live, the loss of pets that left me reeling, dizzying betrayals but much greater loyalty, and overall, choosing as my motto William Blake’s line that we are here to learn to endure the beams of love.

Such are the paradoxes of empathy. The power of this faculty has something to do with its ability to bring our moral concern into a laser pointer of focussed attention. If a planet of billions is to survive, however, we’ll need to take into consideration the welfare of people not yet harmed—and, even more, of people not yet born. They have no names, faces, or stories to grip our conscience or stir our fellow-feeling. Their prospects call, rather, for deliberation and calculation. Our hearts will always go out to the baby in the well; it’s a measure of our humanity. But empathy will have to yield to reason if humanity is to have a future.