You're never done with ethics

Back in 2019, I stubled upon this thread by Jane Ruffino on Twitter. It hit me immediately, and has remained in my mind since:

Most of my career has been in developer-centric organizations. As such, I’ve normalized parts of the engineer mindset that I shouldn’t have. On the flip-side, I’ve become keenly aware of how this mindset transpires in a lot of product talk.

The pattern I want to point out today is the tendency to look at almost anything, and presume that the value is in its automation.

This outlook means one can look at a given situation, and only see opportunities where things can be done repeatedly without change. It’s an ingrained reflex, at this point: automation scales.

We put a lot of hope (monetary and otherwise) on things that scale, on products and companies that promise near-infinite reach from an initial configuration. Our vision of wealth is set-and-forget systems, and it defines what is seen as progress. It is, I suppose, the ultimate gift given to us by the Industrial Revolution.

However, I believe what makes our value as human individuals is constant movement and constant change. We are not resources, measured as present or not. We’re agents! We’re measured in actions, and in the transformations we bring around us.

I think user agency is a fantastic measure of how humane a product is. If humaneness is found in respecting the quality that makes us, us, then it can be measured in how much it empowers one to act exclusively in ways aligned with their intents and values. Automation unfortunately takes away the ability for unplanned actions and transformations - it’s the trade-off that makes repetition possible. By assigning too high a value to automating, we can become blind to the consequences of it.

It’s like in the phrase work-life balance: balance is a verb. It isn’t something you establish, it’s the effect of constant, coordinated movement.

Until next time!

❤ Loved lately

1,500 Slot Machines Walk into a Bar: Adventures in Quantity Over Quality. A duo of talented game developers go all-out on the crappy automated side of tech and commerce: a push-button machine that publishes new (bad) games without any sort of human input. It’s a hilarious and light-hearted primer on the weird world of shovelware.

On this Hurry Slowly podcast, Jenny O’dell touches on products forcing us to exist as only one coherent person in one continuous world – something called context collapse. It’s an excellent introduction to a fascinating topic.

Psychology describes four attachment styles, usually they’re used to categorize someone’s way of interacting in a couple. Elizabeth Grace Saunders takes them and, interestingly, applies them to workplace dynamics.