Simplicity Destroys

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photo: a girl in mesolithic wardobe, flickr member hans s.

photo: a girl in mesolithic wardobe, flickr member hans s.

Here’s a fascinating article from Discover Magazine circa 1987 which essentially posits that the idea of human progress due to civilization is nonsense. That’s shocking enough in and of itself, but current world events support some of what he’s saying.

The author cites several facts based around agriculture showing that from the pre-agricultural period to the post, life expectancies and human height actually dropped (from an insane 26 years to an even more insane 19 years, and from 5’9” to 5’3” for men).

The underlying thought that I agree with is that human organization leads to fewer biological choices and therefore less variation, which we need in both mind and body. Extending that argument to design’s current position in the context of capitalism, we help create messages and objects that are massively pumped into a supply stream, obliterating less-popular choices. Capitalism needs design for that very purpose.

It’s interesting that the human urge is to organize and simplify as it becomes more clear through varying causes—environmentalism, conservatism, the Occupation—that simplification leads to massive destruction. I’d wonder if our own position in the simplification of commerce and creativity is one which needs to be completely rethought.