I was flying back to London from Athens this spring and flicked through the airline’s online business magazine. The topics it covered were current and ‘hot’ with the stand out issues of Ethics, Wellbeing and Tech in all sorts of sectors and business types. The highlight, and indicator of how far some of the awareness raised around wellbeing has come to, was the inclusion of an air quality sensor featured in the gadget section (www.foobot.io). Additionally, and with keen interest I noted how tech and its use in property, was a long read that bodes very well for our plans to take A Better Place methodology onto a tech platform.
Back to the issue I wished to write about… Ethics. It may be a little known fact to many that I have been studying Practical Philosophy for 10 years and tutoring for about 3 years; in practical terms, this means having discourses around the ideas first tabled by Socrates, Plato, Ficino, Shakespeare and Emerson from the Western cultures and Shankara, Confucius and Rumi from the Eastern cultures. Discussion and a search on who we are and the purpose of life is an umbrella topic which affects directly the decisions we make and how we act on a day-to-day basis. So the issue of Ethics is something I’m keenly interested in and active on.
For the purpose of this post, let’s assume that Ethics means the knowledge each human has of what is ‘right’ and ‘fair’ in every decision, thought and action. I’d like to bring it into focus on the Power of Design to influence people. It is extremely important for us to collectively consider the impact design has on the way people use spaces, and how it influences their behaviours and decisions. As a point of reference; current events on the political arena and influence on country outcomes come to mind. I consider the misuse of technology in the political arena with user data, a warning of what could be knocking on the design and construction doors if we don’t take action ourselves immediately.
The more we develop knowledge and raise the bar on how we design interiors and the wider built environment, the more we have a responsibility to individually and collectively ensure the results and processes of influence are known and transparent; and those would be ones that result in ‘good’ and ‘right’ outcomes. I believe the days where retailers’ design spaces for unconscious purchasing without some ‘measure’ and consciousness, where they play on the emotions and keep them locked in, are nearing the point of being called out.; where restaurants are designed to inhibit conversation to get customers out and another table in are quickly becoming second choices; where schools are designed with more discussion on cost rather than value, creating short-termism in economic thinking and overall costing more to societies while offering less value. Sadly the examples are many, and they reflect the current state of our societies’ values and behaviours; the things we have accepted and the things we have not stood up for.
This is where the real and full meaning of Sustainability comes into play; society, economy and environment. A business will thrive if it takes care of both the people that it’s formed by and for, and the environment that hosts it. Selling more with no consideration of what is right and good for all is very last decade daaarling… Design is a decision making tool and the quality of our decisions will be reflected within it and through its impact. Design has power, use it for good as a conscious and Ethical act. We do, join us.
“… It often seems that morality is the enemy of growth. We falsely understand moral rules as descriptions of the soul’s direction and duty. Yet the best thinking in moral philosophy tells us that these rules are only signposts to alert us to the complex of values latent in or consequent upon our decisions. Moral rules encourage us to act with honour, compassion, and justice. They can never be descriptions simply because each person and situation is so different. When we notice something immoral, we normally tend to be harsh with ourselves and employ moral surgery to remove it. In doing this, we are only ensuring that is remains trapped within. We merely confirm our negative view of ourselves and ignore our potential for growth….” John O’Donohue, Anam Cara 1997