Jef Spaleta (jspaleta) wrote,
Jef Spaleta

Intuitive, You keep using that word...

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means" - The Princess Bride

Of, relating to, or arising from intuition.

The act or faculty of knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes; immediate cognition

Technologist, and the culture they are embedded, seem to be trying to redefine what intuitive has historically meant. I'll grant you that language is always evolving and the shift in this particular definition is just part of that evolution regardless of what some silly dictionary would have you believe. But I think it does us all some good if we stop and think about the traditional sense of these words and make sure we aren't falling into a trap of wishful thinking about what we really wished others would define them to be.

Something that is intuitive is not inherently rational or derived from a rational systematic thought processes. Intuition is not deductive reasoning.. is not the synthesis of observable stimuli or facts into a coherent mental model which can then be used to make predictions. Sherlock Holmes and his latterday counterpart Monk aren't fictional masters of intuition, they are characterizations of extremely skilled deductive reasoning which is the exact opposite of intuition. Attention to detail and reliance on methodology in order to make something complicated look easy, doesn't require a single ounce of intuition.

Intuition is not teachable. It is not a process of discernment which can be followed. Intuition is at best situational and at its very worst a very individual specific trait that defies quantization. Intuition and its intuitive fruits are the stuff of dreams and nightmares...of genius and madness.

So when people describe a technology or an interface as "intuitive" keep in mind these traditional definitions about what intuition has historically meant instead of just redefining it as "easy to use" and we all just might communicate a little more clearly. Perhaps in reality building things which rely on a person's "intuition" to understand how they work is ultimately the wrong approach for all technology. Perhaps if we build technology and systems which rely inherently on "deductive reasoning" or other teachable systematic way to take in new information and synthesize it into a mental model is a far better way to proceed.

Words can matter. So can methodology.


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