Eternal questions are concerned with meaning. They rise from people's experiences with the world, and have no definitive answer. Famous questions are: what is the meaning of life? What is a good life. What is a good person? What is beauty? What is love?\n\nAlthough they cannot be answered indefinitely, this doesn't mean that you can't come up with an answer. Through the centuries countless people came up with answers, some believed they answered the question once and for all, others were more modest and saw their answer only as one of the many possible answers.\n
42, is one of the better known answers to life, the universe and everything. But as with all other answers, not less disputed.\n\n
Inspired by the simple and colourful life of Tahiti Paul Gauguin wondered: Where did we come from, who are we, where are we going? And came up with a surprisingly colourful answer.\n
After a life as a hard working writer Dostoevsky set out to show what happens when you put people with different ideas about 'the good life' together in a story and he made four brothers battle it out in The Brothers Karamazov (spoiler: teaching children is the best way) \n
Inspired by a happy poem about friendship Beethoven wondered, what would happiness sound like and penned a piece of music that still makes the loudest death metal bands shiver in fear.\n
Or closer to our time, Haddaway wondered "what is love?" and apparently still has not found the answer.\n
Now although you might not be a mathematicians, painter, musician or writer, this doesn't mean you should miss out on the fun of contemplating meaning.\nBy having the skills of digital tool making, you have the opportunity start exploring meaning in ways that no-one has done before. And even better you can make the tools that help other people explore eternal questions in their own way.\n
The easiest way to go from "What makes a good life?" to what shall I make? is by adding a little design thinking to the mix. Tim Brown proposes to start design exploration by asking "How might we?" Since the web is amazing in creating digital tools that help people doing their own things, we can imagine the questions to become: how might we help people to explore what a good life is? How might we help people to explore what beauty is? \n
How might we explore what beauty is? Perhaps Pintrest is a good place to start.\n
How might we explore what makes for a good life? That is actually already a Quora question.\n
How might we help people exploring the meaning of love? Judging by the statistics we can say that OkCupid does a good job helping people finding for themselves what love might be.\n
For a few years I've been a fan of Steward Brand's The Long Now, a monthly lecture series (and podcast) addressing the past and the next 10.000 years. Being a designer I wondered: how could I help people to think more long term, in design thinking terms: how might we encourage people to think about the long term.\n
What I've got thus far is the long planner, an idea for an application that allows you to plan the next 60 years in as much detail as you like.\n
Testing this on people has already gained some strong negative reactions: "using this would mean you can clearly see that your whole life has been a failure", "if I would use it, death would be the only thing on my mind". But also some positive ones: "If it did financial calculations, I could plan buying a house, a car and a motor cycle", "this could help me not forgetting that I should do some fun things too". \n
If you take a few of the concepts: good, art, beauty, happiness, justice, fairness, and add them after the "how might we?" you can easily come up with plenty of opportunities to start designing and prototyping.\n
I'll leave it up to you to take it from here.\n
Exploring eternal questions through interaction design
What are eternalquestions?Eternal questions are
concerned with meaning. They arise frompeoples experiences with the world, and have no definitive answer.Famous questions are: what is the meaning of life? What is a goodlife? What makes a good person? What is beauty? What is love?Although they cannot be answered definitively, this doesnt mean thatthey cannot be productively discussed. Through the centuriescountless people have come up with answers. Some believed they
“42”Douglas AdamsMany of us are
familiar with Douglas Adams answer fromthe Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: 42, the answer to life,the universe and everything.The Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy
Inspired by the simple and
colourful life of Tahiti, Paul Gauguinwondered: where did we come from, who are we, where are we going?And came up with a surprisingly colourful answer.
In what turned out to
be his final work, Dostoevsky created TheBrothers Karamazov a story about three brothers and a fatherwith very different ideas about what makes a good life.
Inspired by a poem about
friendship, Beethovenwondered: what would happiness sound like? Andpenned a piece of music that still makes the loudestdeath metal bands shiver in fear.
Why would youexplore eternalquestions?You already
do. Every decision shows something about your values.Exploring eternal questions allows you to examine your life in moredetail and from that make better-informed choices of what you shoulddo with your time.Also, its fun. Eternal questions are like maths problems where thesolution becomes harder the more time you spend on solving them.
How might we exploreeternal questions?Although
you might not be a mathematician, painter, musician orwriter, this doesnt mean you should miss out on the fun ofcontemplating meaning.If you have the skills of digital tool-making, you have the opportunityto start exploring meaning in ways that no one has done before. Andeven better, you can make the tools that form the basis for otherpeople to explore eternal questions in their own way.
“How might we?”Tim BrownThe easiest
way to go from an eternal question to a project idea is byadding a little design thinking to the mix. Tim Brown of IDEOproposes to start design exploration by asking How might we?.Change by Design
Some negative feedback:Using this would
mean you can clearly see your whole life unfolding as abig failureIf I would use it, death would be the only thing on my mindSome positive feedback:If it did financial calculations, I could plan buying a house, a car and amotorcycleThis could help me not to forget that I should do some fun things tooI could use it to see how my thoughts about the future have changed overtime