Thursday, June 16, 2011

Humans resist changes - empirical evidence shows

Key frequency infographic
The ability of humans to make a change is very limited.  Even when we know the change is going to be for the best.  Even when we know the current method of working is based on a flawed understanding of our needs.  We resist changes.
A case in point.  The common keyboard.  It is laid out in a some what random pattern of letters.  Yes it looks like your grandfather's keyboard, so you instantly recognize it.  But ask a 7 year old to describe the keyboard and you will see that there is no obvious logic to it's design.  You of course know that the design was purposeful.  It was a configuration that put the most used letters/keys away from the  powerful fingers, this was to slow down the best typist.  During the days of the early type writers the keys would jam.
I recently watch a young lady switch the Wii keyboard from QWERTY to a 9-digit telephone keypad, because it was easier.  At least the letters are in a predictable pattern (ABC1, DEF2, etc.).

Innovation in the typewriter took quite a while.  IBM introduced the Selectric ball in 1961.  This among many other innovations removed the need to slow down the typist to reduce key-jamming, however few people changed to the better designed Dvorak keyboard layout (patented in 1936).

Perhaps it is the patent that prevents its adoption.  I keep asking - why does Apple not give the Dvorak keyboard option to the iOS devices.  With their innovation in keyboards (touch screen) the layout is all software, no hardware cost to switching the keyboard layout.

Yet we still teach and use the inferior QWERTY keyboard.  We resist changing to a new system even when it would make our lives easier, more efficient.  I think the keyboard will die a slow - very slow death.  As computer become auditory and visual input devices.  But the new touch screens - a tactical input device will still be around for quite some time.

The rate of change that a complex system can sustain is one of the factors in its ability to survive.  We now live in an epoch where change is exponential.  Humans better learn to keep up.
Post a Comment