Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Liberalism with initiative

Recently I wrote a post, in which I said:
There is a Russian saying: “A fool without initiative is better than a fool with initiative.” At least the first fool doesn’t do anything — he is just being an idiot quietly. The second one wracks havoc with his well-intentioned idiocy.
So, after that, I was washing hands in our new building’s bathroom and noticed that the water becomes progressively hotter as you have it on (the water turns on itself when your hands approach the faucet; if you want to wash your hands with cold water only, it’s not an option). To the point that if you wash the hands for too long, it becomes intolerably hot. And, of course, if you just washed hands quite thoroughly, and someone walks to the same faucet right after you, he is greeted with a flow of scalding liquid.

I wandered at that point what every programmer has wondered numerous times while working with Windows OS: is this a bug or a feature? (Somehow this statement always sounds better in Russian — perhaps because “bug” and “feature” are pronounced in English, with heavy Russian accent.) Is this someone making a mistake in plumbing, or is this purposefully designed so that people don’t wash their hands for too long, wasting too much water? In other words, is this a work of a fool without initiative or a fool with initiative?

At the time, I dismissed the second alternative as unlikely. It turns out, I could be right on target with it. Gizmodo reports in “Inflatable Shower Curtain: Be Green or Be Suffocated” —
Sure, there are other methods of conserving water in the shower, but none of them put your life on the line like the inflatable shower curtain from designer Elisabeth Buecher.

My approach to design can sometimes appear shockingly radical but I have got different reasons to legitimize that. An alarm clock is not what we can call a pleasurable object. It is often even painful to be awoken by it. However it is a necessary object, which regulates our lives and the society. That's what I call the "design for pain and for our own good".

Some of my designs seem to constrain people, acting like an alarm clock, awaking people to the consciousness of their behavior and giving them limits. People often need an external signal to behave more. In France the government added thousands of new radars on the roads to fight excessive speed. And it worked: there are far less people killed on the roads of France today. I call it "design of threat and punishment" and I use it as an educational tool.

Yeah, she’s not fooling around here. If you don't wrap things up in a timely fashion the curtain will inflate until you are a naked, shivering prisoner in your own shower. By the looks of things, if you aren't careful the damn thing could completely cut off your air supply. Personally, I would rather go with the Eco-Drop Shower — the philosophy is the same but it's far less deadly.
All I can say is that I am glad I don’t live in France. No, it has nothing to do with the fascist approach to drivers. I am just happy I don’t live in France. Well, yet. If the current government (and the particular group of overgrown children that supports it) has its way, this country will be turned into one giant iPhone. I.e., France.

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In other news: “The Pirate Google Bay Gives the Finger to Record Companies, Studios”. Warms your heart, doesn’t it? Well, it warms mine. Every single victory over copyright fascism does.

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