If difficulty in use is to be blamed on the designer, and interfaces get better over time, the challenges that humans face in society will not as often require us to use our analysis and problem-solving skills. Of course there are higher-level problems such as poverty, disease, the environment -- the list goes on and on -- but it is the lower-level problems that we encounter every day that train our brain and our consciousness to engage in, and succeed at synthesis and solutions. Have society and the human condition gotten better from making the world easier to navigate? I'm not sure about this one, but the cranky old men of the world sure don't think so.
The Slow Death of Nuance
If difficulty in comprehension is to be blamed on the writer, then writers, bloggers and content strategists will push themselves to get more simple in their use of written words. In the same way that good user experiences and interfaces render complex series of actions simple through a visual interface (or through an awesome API for the API geeks in the house), writers will then be pushed to bury nuance and distinction in simpler language to be accessible to the masses. As articles, blogs and other written forms are driven to accessibility, will public discourse be far behind? I would argue that public discourse has actually been in the lead, given the ideological narratives, espoused by both sides, that abound on television and radio.
As we continue to bury nuance and distinction, I fear we will lose the ability to describe, see or understand the distinction between different ideas, concepts and artifacts. Many of the great philosophers and writers throughout history have claimed that the ability to identify, understand and communicate distinction is the basis for all knowledge, progress and wisdom in society. The more that nuance and distinction are buried, the more we tread down the road to anosognosia -- a condition in which a person who suffers from a disability seems unaware of or denies the existence of their disability.
The Silver Lining
What will take us off this path to destruction? Where will people find challenges that hone their problem-solving skills, raise their awareness of nuance and distinction? A recent outcome of the UX movement that many people are familiar with is gamification. Many UX practitioners have just discovered the value that games and game mechanics can add to their products and and services and the application of these principles and ideas vary widely (articulated quite fabulously by the ever-brilliant Kathy Sierra).
I do believe that the rising popularity of games will help people in developing their analysis and problem-solving skills and I have to hope that some brilliant game designer with a passion for language will eventually turn their head toward making a game that helps people develop their skills for identifying and communicating distinction. If only it were as simple as "Draw Something!" Or maybe it is. Anyone up for developing "Write Something!"?