Unintended Consequences

My response to a good article.

You could not be more right in pursuing responsible design, but there are limits. Society is increasingly becoming more and more fractured into so many segments; it is virtually impossible to imagine every possible scenario about how a design or artefact will affect every individual. This is the curse of the long tail.

That’s the thing about mass marketing, where so many of us marketing practitioners come from and whose principles we still use. The widest nets are cast to capture the most we can. Yes, in that metaphor, some dolphins get caught in the tuna nets. It is not the most responsible thing to do, but what else can be done, from a practical perspective? Customized/individual solutions are becoming more possible, but they are at a higher cost, which again is a consequence of creating disparage between the “have’s” doing the right thing and the “have-not’s” settling for everything else.

Everything we design has consequences. You can try to mitigate them as best you can, but at the end of the day, there is only so much you can do. You mention the evils of the cellphone. Here are other unintended consequences of cellphones: the minerals used to power them are harvested by child labor. They are incredibly toxic when disposed of. The power they use will ensure ideas like Net Zero are impossible to attain.

I’m not trying to be a wet blanket on your concepts; I’m just realistic. We should always try to be as responsible with the things we make. After all, most designers (I won’t say all) want to serve mankind. We want to make the world a better place. We want to leave the world in a better place than we found it. We want to solve problems. All noble ideas and worth fighting for. But there is no way we can mitigate risk entirely.