Fixating on Solution Aesthetics can Lead to Solving Wrong Problems

  • this might be important for Understanding Through Building - when prototyping things to learn, it's important to focus on the actual problem, instead of trying to "stroke the aesthetic ego" by polishing rounded corners, playing with type systems, etc.
  • examples:
    • high-modernism:

      If the plans for villagization were so rational and scientific, why did they bring about such general ruin? The answer, I believe, is that such plans were not scientific or rational in any meaningful sense of those terms. What these planners carried in their mind's eye was a certain aesthetic, what one might call a visual codification of modern rural production and community life. Like a religious faith, this visual codification was almost impervious to criticism or disconfirming evidence. The belief in large farms, monocropping, "proper" villages, tractor-plowed fields, and collective or communal farming was an aesthetic conviction undergirded by a conviction that this was the way in which the world was headed-a teleology.

      Seeing Like a State - James Scott

      • top-down planning of cities or whole countries never seems to work
        • reference: "A City is not a Tree" - Christopher Alexander
      • the rigid tree-like structure of organisation, though it seems scientific, sometimes is just an aesthetic choice
    • transclusions:
      • most designers of transclusions seem to be thinking about the aesthetic of the technology
        • "everything is a graph!"
        • "you can link to anything, at any level!"

          Arbitrary prose paragraphs aren't effectively usable in multiple places: good prose depends on arc, narrative, context. Text transclusion is almost always disjointed. I fear that most of the system designers who have been excited about this approach are in love with an idea about technology, rather than an idea about writing or communication.

          — Andy Matuschak -

    • coming up with systems for organising notes, and reference material, instead of doing "actual work" with them
Szymon Kaliski © 2021