Harm reduction

1882 Mousetrap Patent

Of course, looking at this patent today, there is a whole bunch of problems:

What happens if a child gets a hold of the gun?

What happens if an innocent bystander accidentally kicks it over?

What happens if the bullet travels further then expected?

What about the patch work you’ll have to do every time the trap goes off?

Is this even ethical?

Seems pretty silly to think about. But then you look around and see many of the same design faults today, you realize we are not so different.

Far too often, we have designed to maximize profit, not to minimize harm. Climate change continues to be a growing problem with most of our industrialized world contributing to carbon outputs.

And yet, the economic train keeps charging.

In Google’s original Code of Conduct it stated, “Don’t be evil.” But we have to be more proactive than this. It isn’t enough to simply design a mousetrap that isn’t cruel. We need to think of design in terms of commission AND omission. In other words:

“Do the right thing.”

Design must continue to evolve. We like to think we are much more sophisticated than the 1882 mousetrap patent. The truth is we have more technology but still fall into the same traps of our pasts. We have never had to design with this many people in mind.

Add in individuals, markets and political systems, each group is looking to apply different types of logic (both short-term and long-term thinking). Everyone has their own plan. Sometimes in the expense of others.

The bottom line here:

It’s not enough to sell a 3/4″ hole anymore. You have to think of impact. Are you contributing to the solution or are you still taking?