UNDERSTANDING HUMAN NATURE , A FOUNDATION FOR DESIGN - A reflection on Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate

  • Pelletier S
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Human nature, alongside our personal environment, has been proven by many to be a fundamental influence on our behaviour and everyday choices. However, the definition, limits and understanding of this human nature have been misinterpreted for quite some time, and still today, create a certain turmoil in many fundamental spheres of our daily life, notably politics and religion. As stated by Steven Pinker in his book The Blank Slate, many theories have been proposed in the last four centuries to answer the nature vs nurture paradigm, namely the Noble Savage, the Ghost in the Machine and the Blank Slate. However, these approaches tend to perpetuate the false idea of protecting a fragile social equilibrium instead of tracing a realistic portrait of the role and the importance of human nature as an empirical fact. Only in recent years has science been able to demonstrate that it is not just the environmental factors that are responsible for who we are as a person, but that our human nature, biological on all accounts, also has a great deal of influence on our behaviour as human beings. Learning and creating are two fundamentally human faculties and in light of recent genetic discoveries and of the exponential development of design technologies, it becomes essential to place our biological human nature at the heart of our understanding and design of the digital spaces surrounding us. This essay will highlight how the many aspects of the digital world we have created (namely the Web) are a direct product of our biological nature, mirroring fundamental genetically motivated human behaviours. Exemplification herein takes two distinct forms which are explained by how we perceive our digital world, and how we design and use our digital world. Each of these two sections state three particular aspects of our biological human nature, followed by a design example rooted in today’s modern digital space. Understanding

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  • Serge Pelletier

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