News out of London of yet another serious Al Queda attempt to kill thousands of people by blowing them up in airplanes, more rocket attacks on Israel and battles in Lebanon, and more bomb explosions in Iraq highlight the need for much faster innovation in military defense. Design has always had the deep capability of empathising with other cultures and understanding them. But it’s other twin capability is iterating quickly to develop solutions to technologically complex problems. Both capabilities should now be deployed as innocent people are killed every day around the world.
Most designers, expecially young ones, I know, are reluctant to use this second capability in any military capacity. But think of what a laser-guided defense system might have meant on the Israeli-Lebanonese border, one that could have stopped the Hezbollah rockets from blowing people in towns and cities over the past six years. It might have prevented the current war. Think of what new seismic technology that allowed soldiers to “see” tunnels and bunkers might mean in terms of saving civilian lives. Think of what new armor made by nanotechnology might mean to soldiers fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan or Baathist terrorists in Iraq. Think of how RFD tags can protect containers brought to Los Angeles and New York from being used to transport nuclear bombs.
It’s very hard for many designers to think this way, of harnessing innovation and design for defense but the events present themselves in ways we cannot ignore. You cannot just wish bad away. Design thinking and strategy can provide us with deep knowledge of and compassion for other cultures. But design can also help protect us from those that wish to destroy our own culture.
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