Nassim Taleb, the author of The Black Swan, , has a pretty cool response to the Edge Question: What game-changing ideas will you live to see? He votes for iatrogenics (yeah, first time I’ve seen that word too) which he explains is the pursuit of finding out “what harm can be caused by science”. He mentions it’s thus far only been applied to medicine, and hopes to see it applied to other sciences.
It chimed well with me not only because it’s an opportune time to re-evaluate the endless drill-down of technology and whether it helps (think facebook>iphone widget>geolocation) or abstractly isolates us deeper and deeper. As software designers (and designers in general), it’s our constant struggle to determine, often against the will of marketing executives and stakeholders, whether a feature “helps or hurts”, “simplifies or complicates”. This is a nice parallel to keep in mind.
Good ol’ greeks knew it all along … iatrogenesis.