Invisible Technology

Technology is at its best when it is invisible

Invisible Technology has been there for a while. Nassim Taleb’s quote provides further insight into the phenomenon for us.

Technology is at its best when it is invisble.

Nassim Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

Good technology gets the job done without drawing attention to itself.

Take the Nike Hyperfeel shoe for instance. It prides itself on making the runner feel the ground he is running on. This is the latest in a long evolution of footwear. Hyperfeel’s ancestors prided on insulating the runner from the environment (think Nike air with all that padding). The new generation, however, prides itself on inclusiveness with the environment. This shoe allows the runner to become one with his environment. Its success is in making itself invisible!

Or take this quote from a fastcodesign.com article:

“Google’s aesthetic aim is clear: to disappear.

The most beautiful Google experience is the one you never notice”. An ethos that has found its way into many of google’s new products delighting its customers.

Invisible Technology can be seen in 500-year-old “living” bridges

The living root bridges at Chirapunjee are “grown over a decade or so” from live roots. The bridges work, the trees continue to live, and people use them to get across – the design is invisible. Some bridges are reputed to be over 500 years old. This is innovation, sustainability, and invisible design all at one go!

And finally, this idea seems not just to propel technology and design but also leadership. Here’s a wonderful quote from the great Chinese sage Lao Tzu on leadership:

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves”

That’s that, then. it’s time to ask ourselves one question:

Are our designs and our work (or, for that matter, our very selves) invisible? Or are they more attention-seeking than solving a purpose?

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P.S: Updated March 2021 – primarily cosmetic edits as the topic still seems to hold its own very well!

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