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Audacious Fox

Om Malik, The New Yorker:

Whether self-driving cars and trucks, drones, privatization of civic services like transportation, or dynamic pricing, all these developments embrace automation and efficiency, and abhor friction and waste. As Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management, told MIT Technology Review, “Productivity is at record levels, innovation has never been faster, and yet at the same time, we have a falling median income and we have fewer jobs. People are falling behind because technology is advancing so fast and our skills and organizations aren’t keeping up.” It is, he said, “the great paradox of our era.”

Mr. Malik focuses his piece on Silicon Valley and the socioeconomic filters the region appears to have adopted. Another way, “People become numbers, algorithms become the rules, and reality becomes what the data says.” Whatever goes up, that’s what they do.

Empathy is a bit of a buzzword in the design and user experience fields, but its regular repetition is for good reason: it’s easy to lose sight of your customers from behind the screen of your Retina MacBook Pro. You can mitigate some of the distance by doing user research and establishing good interface guidelines, but nothing ever beats just watching someone use your software.

Outside of software, and on a more human level, the same type of empathetic education can be had by simply watching and listening to people in your community. When those conversations begin to carry a hint of predictability, visit somewhere outside your town or city. The key to fighting empathy decay is to not stop.

Hat tip to Phil L. for sending me this.