Friday, December 30, 2011

Strange expectations

Last night I watched the Apollo 11 launch with my 5-year old son. Afterwards, he turned to me and said:

“I've changed my mind. When I grow up, I want to be a, umm, one of the people in the rockets.”

“You mean an astronaut? Someone who goes into space is an astronaut.”

“Yes. And then, when I'm old enough to drive, then I want to be a race car driver.”

It was hard not to laugh, but he just doesn't have the knowledge and experience to have what adults would consider “reasonable expectations”. It's not that he wants to be an astronaut or a race car driver that is funny, it is that he knows it is going to be a long time before he can drive, so he figures he may as well be an astronaut in the meantime — after all, as far as he knows there are no age limitations for “people in rockets”, and from his perspective the one is no harder than the other.

This was a reminder to me that when designing technology we need to be sure to reset our expectations when dealing with those who do not have our knowledge and experience. They are going to make assumptions that seem bizarre: it's not just that they don't have the knowledge and experience, it is that they don't have the base expectations that we have accumulated over our experience.

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