Summing It All Up

In this book I've explored a diverse collection of subjects. They range from the personal conversations of commuters returning from work to warriors guiding missiles; from music to gesture recognition; from the American Revolution to today's political conventions; and from nuclear power plants to simple tools used by millions.

Running through all this are a variety of themes. Let me highlight and summarize just a few of the important ones.

  • The real world is a place rich in variation and complexity. On just about any topic, you can explore deeply and find nuance. There are many, many individuals in the world. Each of these people has a different set of skills and experiences and a different context in which he or she exists and relates to others. Technology-based tools need to address this diversity and depth.

  • There is great value in designing for free-form use. To address the diversity in the world that no one person can comprehend, you need to build tools that give freedom of expression and facilitate that expression. A successful tool or system must be able to evolve, be used to improvise, and deal with the unforeseen. Innovators have a social responsibility to develop tools flexible enough to be built upon so that other people can figure out exactly what they should be used for. It is usually the users of technology, not the inventors, who determine how tools are applied.

  • Developers and policy makers must understand how people and their motivations really work ...

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