What happens when human structures get too complex?

What happens when human structures get too complex?
They implode.


“In 1988, Joseph Tainter wrote a chilling book called The Collapse of Complex Societies. Tainter looked at several societies that gradually arrived at a level of remarkable sophistication then suddenly collapsed: the Romans, the Lowlands Maya, the inhabitants of Chaco canyon. Every one of those groups had rich traditions, complex social structures, advanced technology, but despite their sophistication, they collapsed, impoverishing and scattering their citizens and leaving little but future archeological sites as evidence of previous greatness.”

“To pick a couple of examples more or less at random, last year Barry Diller of IAC said, of content available on the web, “It is not free, and is not going to be,” Steve Brill of Journalism Online said that users “just need to get back into the habit of doing so [paying for
content] online”, and Rupert Murdoch of News Corp said “Web users will have to pay for what they watch and use.””

“When ecosystems change and inflexible institutions collapse, their members disperse, abandoning old beliefs, trying new things, making their living in different ways than they used to. It’s easy to see the ways in which collapse to simplicity wrecks the glories of old. But there is one compensating advantage for the people who escape the old system: when the ecosystem stops rewarding complexity, it is the people who figure out how to work simply in the present, rather than the people who mastered the complexities of the past, who get to say what happens in the future.”

Design Expectations

LukeW wrote up his notes from An Event Apart and had a couple of nuggets that I really liked.


“In his Emotional Interface Design talk at An Event Apart in Seattle WA, Aarron Walter talked about focusing on more than usability in Web application design by outlining ways to make stronger connections to people and their emotional needs.”

“We are all just trying to make out Websites usable. Usable is the equivalent of edible (in the food industry).”

“Emotional usability –people will forgive shortcomings when the benefit outweighs the cost. If you can stack the deck in a positive direction, people will stick with you. People will forgive your shortcomings if you reward them with positive emotion.”

“People are not lazy, they are just looking for the path of least resistance. If people are not going down the path you want them to, you can try bribery.”

“When confronted with too many choices, our internal cost/benefit analysis fails. If you add something, you’re going to lose something.”

“Showing your humanity helps make a connection. Put yourself out there and people will respond.”