Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Are Humans Intelligently Designed?

I was recently in the Toyota design showroom near Miraikan in Tokyo. On the wall they listed the 7 principles of good design that they had borrowed from an American, Ron L Mace.

I wanted to do a thought experiment where Mr Mace was asked by God (or a representative from the 'intelligent design' community) to review the human body as a designed product to see how it would fare against a modern automobile from Toyota. I imagine Mr Mace making notes on his 7 principles check list as follows:
Equitable use (all sizes and types and Handicapped access etc)
Relatively easy to interact with but somewhat harder to ensure correct interpretation of communicated instructions. There is a wide variation of abilities and traits between genders. A general bias exists against females in strength and size and against males in lifespan and number of friendships. Older models have limitations with mobility and sense perception but generally may be considered equitable in use.
Overall score - not bad - 7/10

Flexibility in use (RH and LH use, Accuracy, Precision..)
Majority have preference for RH use and linear thinking. Remaining group (LH) seems to have artistic and anarchic predisposition. Neither group is particularly accurate or precise, particularly in time estimating and keeping, except for small tribe in central Europe. Overall quite stubborn and resistant to new ideas.
Overall score 3/10

Simple and intuitive use (Ikea, moving walkway)
Good score here – no manual needed. Not as efficient from birth as other mammals but quick to learn. Better if not messed around by psychiatrists. Note - inbuilt Theory of Mind allows for deception and this has been incorporated into many languages (esp English) making older models harder to understand.
Overall score 7/10

Perceptible information (multiple sources, redundancy, e.g signage at airport)
Good body language and voice assistance to communication and operation. Darwin documented 24 facial expressions and language has facilitated more nuanced approaches e.g tones, grunts, irony, sarcasm.
Overall score 8/10

Tolerance for error (Shingo, undo button, error warning/ elimination)
Humans have capacity to deceive and lie and these appear to be much valued in the business world and rewarded in card games. Males don’t score as highly as females here. Humans find it difficult to disguise telltale signs (emotions) of errors but react badly to advice on these issues.
Overall score 6/10

Low physical effort (lightweight doors/ curtains)
Effort required is difficult to predict as productivity and output vary dramatically during the day, week and year. Lack of motivation is a key factor and humans lack a clear understanding of their own internal workings in this matter.
Overall score 3/10

Size and space for approach and use (wide gates etc)
Easy to interact with but somewhat clumsy in office and dance floor. Easily accessible from front side if not distracted by headphones and dark glasses. Not generally accessible from the rear or sides.
Overall score 4/10

No wonder the Japanese are leading the world in the design of robotics – they have the framework already.

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