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April 26, 2011 AT 12:03 am

Why IEEE Fellow Radia Perlman hates technology

Radia

Why IEEE Fellow Radia Perlman hates technology @ ITworld via .

What advice would you give to fellow engineers?
Start out with finding the right problem to solve. This is a combination of “what customers are asking for”, “what customers don’t even know they want yet” and “what can be solved with something simple to understand and manage”. And, try to think about and understand various approaches, and the tradeoffs between various choices.

…But the world would be a better place if more engineers, like me, hated technology.

The stuff I design, if I’m successful, nobody will ever notice. Things will just work, and be self-managing. Though, I’ve learned that some people like to configure things, so I usually design in knobs for them to play with, and perhaps improve things, but any setting of the knobs will still work correctly.

When engineers [who] just love this stuff design something, we wind up with a system that asks an innocent person attempting to install email, “Do you want POP or IMAP?” One common comment engineers make is that we need “more user training”. That’s just wrong. Instead of expecting humans to adapt to an interface slapped together by engineers, engineers should strive to create a system that is designed for humans in their natural form.

Full interview here


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2 Comments

  1. Norm DeValliere

    Amen!

  2. I would never say that we need to hate technology as engineers, but she does have a point.

    The best designers I met in college and in the real world were those who were geeks, but also knew how to have a good time (parties, going out, dancers, musicians, actors) and had varied interests. Devotion to technology is wrong. A life full of only circuits and bits is a cold and empty one.
    The problem is that often these students do extremely well in coursework and cannot create something worth a darn.

    Make your Engineers take Human-Computer Interaction, Cognitive Science, Communications, Media Production, and Artistic courses. That teaches creativity and forces engineers to interact with non-techies. She is right that they do not do a good job with networking courses and teaching specifics instead of principle concepts. Computational photography, image analysis, Sensor, and high level Music Theory courses do a better job at teaching networking concepts!

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