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Aug. 26, 2022

E256 - We Have 8 BILLION Humans to Design for

This week on the show, we talk abou how the world population is soon going to surpass the 8 billion threshold. We also answer some questions from the community about following UX guides or carving your own path, networking to get ahead in your career, and making assumptions on users

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Welcome to Human Factors Cast, your weekly podcast for human Factors psychology and design.



Take two. This is episode 256 and we're recording this live th on August 25, 2022. This is human factors. Cast I'm your host, Nick Rome. I'm joined today by the wonderful Mr. Barry Kirby. Hey, how are you doing? Hey, I am well. This is our second take of the intro. Is it going okay? It's great. I'm loving it. I'm just verified in case you say anything out of place. All right, leave it in. All right, we got a great show for you all tonight. We're going to be talking about how world population is going to surpass the 8 billion threshold very soon. And later, we're going to answer some questions from the community about following UX guides or carving your own path, networking to get ahead in your career and making assumptions on users. But first we have some programming notes or community update here. Barry, I have to know what is the latest over at twelve two? Well, in twelve two people have been inspired by Bob Ridge and his insights into human Factors books as an author. And he's written a whole bunch of Human Factors books and he's given his insights on why to write them in the first place. And if you're using a publisher, how does that work, but also what happens when you self publish and what does that do for you? He gives us some really good insights into all of their processes, the fun around writing and why did it in the first place. But also if you're a budding author, then some of the pitfalls to avoid. On Monday, we have a new discussion going live, and that's with Susie Broadbent. And Susie is a fellow of the CIAF and delivered this year's Institute lecturer at EHF 2022. She talks with experience and passionate about the practicalities of implementing good human factors practice and really around where we have to make real life judgments about adopting the book methodology to make it to applying that to real world conditions. And so it's the real practical aspects of applying human factors. So that goes live on Monday, and hopefully Abbie will learn something new. Was Susie the one who caused a stir? That's how susie, I'm looking forward to that one. All right, well, we know why you're here. Let's get into the news.



Yes, this is the wonderful part of the show, all about human factors news, where our listeners and patrons choose the story. Barry, what is the story this week? So the story this week is the world population is going to hit 8 million. 8 billion, sorry, any day now. The global population is set to hit 8 billion people by November 1522, according to the United Nations latest population projections. The report also predicts eight 5 billion people by 2039, 7 billion by 2050, and ten 4 billion in 2100, or in simple terms, a rapid slowdown in the explosive growth we've been seeing over the past century or so, though we've known the population was going to hit this number since July of this year. The Wall Street Journal pointed out today that it's now essentially imminent, with it now being possible that the world will hit this giant round number any day now. Although the UN thinks will eventually cross the 10 billion mark, the WSJ argues that may not actually be the case. It's predicted that the education and increasing quality of life could actually drastically slow global fertility. There are really two big questions. They point out, firstly, how rapid fertility will decline in Africa, and the other question is China and countries with very low fertility, if they will actually recover and how fast they will recover as the population grows, it will cause significant pain points. The most alarming might be the population bomb already being felt in some parts of the world, caused it by rapid aging cohort without enough youngsters left over to care for them, the total population in the end is a meaningless number. It depends on what these people are able to do and what their skills are and whether actually they've got enough to eat. So, Nick, what are your thoughts on having more and more neighbors on our little spacewalk? Oh, that's a great way to put it. That is a lot of people. Wait, 8 billion. 8 billion people is a lot of people. And as somebody who works with people, for people, that gives me a good sense of job security. But beyond that, these are really interesting numbers here and they mentioned this rapid slowdown and in the report they actually project that there could be a decline in population in some models at the extreme ends. And so maybe we can talk a little bit about through that issue a little bit later. But I'm curious about what your initial reaction to all this was. So I still can't help feeling that, yes, there is becoming more and more of us, but there's still lots of space in the world for people to inhabit. But we do have a habit now wanting to mainly cluster around certain areas. So your big city populations are largely getting denser and denser, rather than us spilling out into broader green pastures, as it were. I'm also not entirely convinced, and this sounds a horrible thing to say, but can we be nice enough to each other when there are more people around us? Given the volatility of different people, different countries, et cetera, et cetera, I do wonder that the more people you have, does the worse actually have global relationships? How are they going to survive and will they thrive or will they decline? But actually, as you mentioned outside the headline of this 8 billion number, the article did say that there is a slowdown in that growth, which I think is I think is a good thing. But it's interesting that this article automatically run into how these younger people, or there's not enough people to care for older people, how we're going to feed each other, et cetera, et cetera, which is almost feeling a very selfish attitude to where we're at now as opposed to where we potentially need to be. But I think we could dig into some of this and I think there's a lot of media for us to get stuck into. Yeah, and I think, again, Barry put out the call on social media for others to comment on this. I think this first one actually goes very well with some of the points that you were making here. This is from Peter Williams and they wrote timely tweet given I'm surrounded by farmers at the moment. With 84 million extra miles to feed each year according to the UN. The world of Internet of Things and satellite Internet of things will no doubt provide efficiency gains, better data and digital knowhow for farmers to exploit and export globally. So do we want to talk about the farming aspect of this and how this might be sort of one good way in which we can use technology to leverage it for our benefit as a global society? Yeah, I think absolutely. There's so much around our basic need, so we know when you look at myself, hierarchy needs and things like that, whether you agree with that or not. But the fundamental, we all need to be fed, we all need to have that basic food security and the main people who provide that are farmers, obviously. So they need to generate crops that need to generate food for the world. So if you look at it at a world scale. The greater aggre tech and the technology to allow them to be more efficient. To be able to understand the whole nature of what it is that they're doing. From how effective their soil is to the water levels. Water pollution. Or just the nutrients within the soil and the water and how that's all working. It means they can be massively efficient. But then it also leads into logistics as well because if we can get used technology to have better logistics. It means we can get the food where it needs to go at the right time. Because at the moment we still live in a world where we are throwing so much waste away at all parts of the food production and sales element that surely we should be able to utilize technology to make the delivery of food more efficient. So we're actually getting fresher food quicker and reducing waste. Now, you know more about the logistics side of things than I do. Do you have any sort of insights around that type of thing? We still have a long way to go. But that's a good thing, right? Because we're thinking about these problems now and I almost want to take a step back and look at sort of the key messages that are coming out of this UN report and I pulled this out, I'm going to read through them and maybe we can dig into ones that we find are interesting. So I'm going to read these kind of verbatim as they have them in the report and these are high level sort of messages. They have a bunch of other bullet points that are supporting evidence. We're just going to go through the high level evidence because otherwise we'd be here for the entire hour reading out those bullet points. So the first one here is the world population continues to grow but pace of growth is slowing down. So that's kind of the first high level point. The next one, rates of population growth varies significantly across countries and regions. The next point is levels and patterns of fertility and mortality vary widely around the world. The next point is the population of older persons is increasing both in numbers and as a share of the total population. And I think this is what is getting people concerned and worried, isn't it, is the fact that we are living longer, but as we're getting it's not like the majority of us are living longer and staying completely fit and healthy. The majority of people will hit an age where they need more support, et cetera, et cetera. And that's where I think certainly after the article there was then highlighted bits around, okay, we've got this older population who's going to look after them, who's going to basically look after me in my old age. This is almost then almost where we step up with the technology. We've talked a lot in a lot of previous episodes about how technology can support people. So people to be more independent in their own home, use of wearables, to understand your own physical mental well being and things like that. So is this something that we need to be concerned about? And also is this only a point in time? Because actually if the population density is getting off and we might see a population decrease overall, it's because it's almost the baby boomer blip, isn't it, that things might come down. Some of this feels almost not a selfish point, but it is a very moment in time point. Now that moment in time might last five or ten years but when you look at the overall expectancy, I'm not sure whether that is where the focus needs to be. Yeah, I mean that is what we're trying to focus on now because that is where we're at now. You're right, this makeup of different populations and age of populations will change over time and especially as sort of this growth is decreasing, you're going to have less in that group as the mortality rate either increases or slows down depending on global circumstances. Right. We saw a huge mortality rate increase during the pandemic. So those are types of things where we can't predict that but we are seeing the slowdown of growth where the curve is kind of flattening out, which is really interesting and not somewhere that we've been at least since we tracked able to see since records began. Yeah, exactly. So you're right, this is a unique issue where we need to design for that population, but then we also need to consider everyone else that comes after. And you're right, we did talk a lot about this in other episodes. And robots is the answer. Go listen to that episode if you want. No, they're not the answer. But the answer is to sort of think about where the population is at now, what digital nativity means for future generations and how do we design for those countries and cultures who are not digital natives yet. That's another question. Right, that is almost like with a couple of other points that you highlighted. There the fact that rates of population varies significantly across countries and regions and so you got booms in different areas happening all the time. And also the fertility and mortality vary around the world as well. Are we almost at that piece now where actually the world is almost doing that bigger Mother Nature thing of self limiting in doing them, things that is way beyond our comprehension as such, which it could be. It's interesting to see whether the world can self regulate in that way and just how we deal with that. Yeah, I agree. I'm going to get back to this list of key messages. Here. We have, what, six more or something like that. The next point here is a sustained drop in fertility leads to an increased concentration of the population at working ages, creating an opportunity for accelerated economic growth per capita. We can get back to that one. The next point here is more and more countries have begun to experience population decline. We already talked about that a little bit. Next point is international migration is having important impacts on population trends. For some countries, the coveted pandemic has affected all components of population change, including fertility and mortality. We talked a little bit about that and then the last point that they make is population data provide critical information for use in development planning. And so why do we look at population? Well, it's exactly for that reason. We can start to understand what is happening around us and try to match our approach to better plan for what we suspect is going to happen. So those are the messages, barry, really? We could go anywhere from here. Where do you want to jump in? So I think the first bit, I quite like the thought of it's almost continuing that argument about understanding what does the slowdown mean, because I think it's quite interesting already that we rather pick up on the 8 billion number. We're actually more concerned about what happens after that. But where we talked about how to care for the elder generation there is also a lot of discussion around what is the economic impact. So if you got less people working or if you got a lot of people we've already living in a world where there is less jobs available. The traditional jobs of mining, the traditional factory type work is now being replaced by automation. Maybe not in the big way that a lot of people think but actually there is a lot more, lot more automation going. There's less people working on production lines. So actually if we do have this population decrease we're not going to necessarily reduce the number of jobs available because they're already reducing it's more. That actually maybe the population is now suiting the number of jobs available, which is potential. But do we where do you think these future jobs are going to go? Do you think they will disappear or do you think they will just change into something else? I think you should read that other social thought. Okay, let me just scroll back up the social thought. Okay. So Steph Karmak who was also provided a social thought for the last episode. Her response was oh, that's a lot to think about from automation. Influence of AI aging population, social care to design issues with my paramedic background. Health and social care are big issues. It for patient tracking, flow and support with clinician decision making. Maybe as a broad start. I want to comment on this because you started to bring up automation and with this population decline I want to tie this social thought into that thread because both you and staff are right, there is this population decline. And so if you think about that there's going to be all these jobs and roles in which we perform in society that are no longer going to be fulfilled once the population declines to a certain point and perhaps even reverses from that high level number. Right? Not necessarily talking about the growth declining but the population actually declining, which is an option in the report. There are projections in which there could be a population decline by the year. I don't know, it was like 2050 or 2100. We're talking about long spans of time. But it's important to think about especially when some of these roles may not be fulfilled if you do have a population decline. I'm looking through the report right now to see where that projection was because it was definitely an interesting one. If you are following along with the report. I am looking at page 27. The bottom of that there's sort of a projection where at the bottom end and actually in some in half the cases population does decline and you have sort of this convergence of births and deaths each year that would indicate that there are more people being taken out of this world than being put into this world. That's a really grim way to think about it. But let's think about what that means for human factors. So this has massive implications for things like human AI, robot teaming when we are going to need to sort of design systems to take care of some of those tasks that are currently being occupied by human operators, right? And so if you think about sort of making, I don't know, we're already seeing this here in the States and this is a very high tech example and I'm sorry, but this is like just the one at the top of my head. We're seeing bots that are flipping burgers, right? And we even talked about this in a previous episode. We're seeing bots that are flipping burgers and that's to take care of a position that here in the States we're seeing a population decline with a lot of more people deciding that they do not want children and you're not having as much. We are a low fertility country is how this report would put it. And so because of that, we're not having enough people to replace the jobs that we had before. And so we're building robots to do those things and we need to figure out how to interact with those robots and we need to figure out where those robots make sense to put in for those types of roles and where they don't make sense. Are you going to have a robot surgeon? See last week?



I would challenge you slightly. Okay, let's have a slight disagreement. It's not really a big disagreement, but you made the assumption there that we are making robots to flip burgers because there is no people to flip the burgers. No, there's more to it than that. There is, but fundamentally making robots fit the burgers, do the surgery, et cetera, et cetera, because we can. And we're finding that we can get technology to do these things. And the knock on effect of that is actually we don't need to employ people to flip the bogus because we can get robot to do it for us all be the checkout operator. All of the examples are there. And so that's why I think I'm I guess it's fairly easy for us to say at this point in time I'm fairly relaxed about population decrease because a natural population decrease, not in any sort of other weird way because that takes us to a whole different conversation. Getting dark there, Barry.



A lot of the arguments that we've got around a lack of automation at the moment is around the fact that it takes away jobs. And so we've got lots of campaigns in the UK at the moment. So I don't know what it's like in the States, but in the UK there's already campaigns around checkout operators when you go to your local supermarket that you can use the checkout with a person on it. So we safeguard them jobs rather than them put in the self service checkouts. But then there's so many people who then comment and say, well, I prefer using the self service checkout because it means I don't have to speak to anybody. I can just get on, do my thing and get out. And so we sort of tried to artificially retain the jobs for the sake of retaining the jobs, not because it's the most efficient way of doing it. Of course, then that is all also then driven down, fundamentally driven by profit, isn't it? Because if you don't have to employ people, you don't have all the hassle around it, the job just gets done. So there's an element here of how do we make sure that the population is well serviced. Well provided for in terms of what it needs. And how technology. And by implication. The human factors around that technology best support what we're doing. Rather than almost worrying about do job survive because actually jobs in themselves. Do we create a whole thing around them that we have to have jobs? Because that's what we've been driven to believe. And one of the drivers behind this article, we see it in a number of other news articles when they come out, senders got potential population decline. It's got nothing to do really with whether the population decline is good, bad or indifferent. It's about that there is a smaller population or smaller number of youngsters to provide that care or more fundamentally, to pay the taxes in order to pay the pensioner, elderly and going to be claiming their pension because the whole system falls over. Or a whole bunch of people, ourselves included, have been living off this growing population and therefore feeling like it's unlimited growth, unlimited expansion. We started to hit the boundaries. Now this now takes us quite nicely onto. If the planet is trying to self regulate it with the number of people, it clearly means we need to go to Mars. There you go. That was a link. Did that come on? No, I didn't. That was out of nowhere. No, you're right though. If we're talking about society and we're talking about sort of why society is really obsessed with this population decline, it's because people won't get their money when they retire, stay in their jobs for longer. And it's more than that. And it's easy, it's not easy for me to sit here and say that because I'll be there someday. Right, but you think about it and it just means that we have to adjust the way in which we think about the world. You're right, we don't have this unlimited fountain of young people to fund our yeah, exactly. So I think really we just need to think about it from a different societal perspective. And really that's a really Western way to think about these population trends because there are plenty of societies in which that doesn't happen. We need to start thinking about like, from a global perspective, what this means, and especially the countries in which this is going to fundamentally change the way that their local, state, national governments work. It is going to be very interesting to see how policy evolves over time in those other countries. I mean, they brought up China. China has a population decline. What will the state of China look like in 2030 years? What policy will be in place in 2030 years? I'm not going to comment on any policy that is in place now or in the future. I'm just saying, how will it change? That is something that we have to think about, right? And so from a societal perspective, that is another consideration. I will say there's a larger ethical issue very relevant here in the States right now, is do you encourage population growth? In some instances through policy? They've basically taken away a woman's right to choose, a person's right to choose here in the States in some places, and that is entirely unfair. Will that result in a population growth? In some cases, yes. And it's going to cause financial hardship and burden on those people who don't have that choice. And so there's the question of if it's vital enough to the survival of a society. If you implement these policies that are subtle nudges for people to reproduce and sort of fill in that gap that is coming with the population growth decline. There's a variety of ways in which you can do it that's less invasive than the way that's being done now. Such as subtle benefits for having children or support from communities or government that would help you sort of take care of those children. There are ways in which you can do it without taking away people's right to choose. Anyway, soapbox down. You wrote another point here, and I'm going to pass it over to you to talk about this point. Yes. Not the opposite of what you're talking about, but actually I've seen a large rise, and I read an article on it just yesterday, which was people's perception of what you should be doing as a couple. Should the ultimate drive be to just reproduce? And it was started off by a couple who moved into a house, moved into quite a large house, four bed house with two and a half bathrooms. I'm still not entirely sure you get half a bathroom. But they would talk to the neighbors, and all the neighbors had children and all this sort of stuff, and they're like, oh, you mean to the house? You're going to have some kids in that to fill the house up? They're like, well, no, we like the house. I love the space. I've got a couple of offices. We've got this, that and the other. We're happy just as we are, and we sort of have this. And their neighbors were almost against us, and there was a whole bunch of other examples of the same. So we seem to have this innate thing inside us that we expect all couples to reproduce. And in particular, we expect all women to want to become mothers but actually there's so many more people who are not wanting to do that. They're either not wanting to be a family with children, they just want to be a family, just the pair of them or they've just got no interest in reducing, we seem to society and it might be just a protection mechanism within ourselves as a society. If you think of society as an organism but actually should we be beating down on them in the way that we are? I know it might not be like the societal norm but people want to live in the way that they want to live and actually we just let them get on with it. Yes, I will echo that. Just let people have live their lives. Don't come in with any of this prejudice towards people who don't want to have children. That's their choice. And my wife and I chose to have a child, maybe more. We'll see. But if we only have one then we are contributing to that population decline, right? And are you then going to get on people who only have one child because they're not producing the status quo of people?



It's a stupid argument and I hate it. Just let people live their lives. We'll figure out the problems later. Just let people live their lives the way they want to live them. Right? I have friends who don't want to have kids and it's totally fine. Just let them live their lives. It's their choice. Stay out of their choices anyway. That's a theme, right? Stay out of your choices. I have other points that I want to bring up about this sort of what it means for design and really what it means. When you think about ubiquitous design this kind of comes back to the shift in population. You have more aging population now, but over time that will shift and level out. Maybe you have to design something that's ubiquitous enough for all populations to use and especially considering those sort of uneven distributions of population. That's hard. That is hard to do. But it's something that I feel like as the population shifts we have to maybe shift to the design or have an understanding of how things will shift over time to accommodate those things. I think another example of something like this, or a prime example I should say, of something like this is transportation. This is again fairly western industrialized society standpoint. I understand that if you think about transportation solutions right now we have here in the states we have cars, but then we also have public transportation. And what happens to public transportation when less and less people take it because you're having less and less population shift? Do you change the way it works? Do you pull back on how often the schedules run? Is that fair to the people who need to get things on time? You think about the. Throughput the bandwidth, all that stuff. And it even comes down to the ways in which we build our cities and the ways in which we build our roads for personal, private transportation as well. You have to think about all this stuff. And that is another really interesting point to me is how do you design something for a changing population? Because right now, here in the States, what we see is the roads of the 1950s, 1960s are no longer big enough to support all the cars on the road. And so there's constant efforts. Like you drive through California, there's always a piece of the road that's in construction trying to widen that bandwidth of cars that are able to get through because you have this growing population. What happens when it actually gets to that sustainable point or unsustainable point to where it declines? You now have these massive roads that are too big for what you need at that point in time. And so these are questions that I have. I don't have solutions, but these are questions that I have about how to handle this change in population distribution over time, especially as it comes to sort of these massive projects that take up a lot of space on our planet, right? That also goes with housing too. Right now housing is a huge issue in a lot of parts of the world and maybe someday it won't be. And what do we do with all that extra land and property without letting it go fall by the wayside and become dilapidated huts out in the wilderness? What do you do with that? How do you maintain it in case the population does turn around and come back up again? All these are questions of how to deal with these types of large infrastructure issues with population distribution. Do you have any thoughts on that? There is I don't think we're in any risk at the moment of if we still go through this boom and then there's basically a reduction, there are still so many people who are living in abject poverty that will take off these houses. But there is also, if you look on like social media, there's some really good examples about where cities, and actually vast cities have been abandoned. They've either been developed and then for whatever reason, they've been abandoned and nature has come and taken them back. There are some fascinating pictures out there about how that whole ecosystem is working. But I do think you're right. I think if we're clever, which in Variably means we probably won't do it, if we plan and understand what the future could look like and deal with that, then we can actually have those underpinning structures in place to be able to deal with almost the rise and decline of populations, but also the technology in place around automation and around AI to help support the civilization. Because I think one of the things that really gives us problems at the moment is the population densities that really we get so many people trying to live in really quite small spaces compared to there being more people could move out to the countryside if we had the right levels of connectivity. So even in the UK at the moment, if you go and live out in the countryside, your level of broadband connectivity is lower. Your ability to get postal deliveries is not as good. If you're cut off because of weather or whatever, then you have a lower quality of life because of not having these things. But if we could provide connectivity, if you could provide all these things to a higher standard, then actually the population density problem doesn't become as big because living more remotely is accessible. The development of public transport, as you quite rightly say, is people use public transport less and less. There is less ability to put on public transport because it is not economically viable. And we are seeing really good examples of that at the moment in the UK as well, because people don't use the public transport as much. Railways, if you wanted to go and take a long journey, it's going to cost you a couple of hundred pounds, whereas the same journey by car will cost you maybe around £30. So the cost benefit in that, and that's assuming that you're traveling on your own, as soon as you have two people, then having your own private transport makes way more economic sense and timing sense and all that sort of stuff. So we need to have better public transport systems in place so then people would use them. But it's going to take a forward looking view in order to what it could be and not have not been investing in that. And we're going to need that throughout technologies, so we're going to need really good investment to make it work, to be future proof and not just trying to catch up with where it should be. The last bit I want to dive into is climate. Climate population. We sort of say that climate change is human driven, which I think we all largely accept, hence why we drove the idea of climate economics and things like that. If we've got this problem to solve, but yet we've got less people to solve it, does that mean that the declining population means that the problem of human accelerated climate change will go away? I'm not sure it will. I think there's just less people to solve it. I don't have an answer for you. It'll be interesting to see how things do change over time. I just don't know. I don't think any of us know. But again, it's going to be something we'd have to try and model, we're going to have to try and understand, we're going to have to try and work out how we're going to deal with it. Yeah. And there's some really big there's none of these simple design issues from a Human Factors perspective here. These are really big Human Factors issues that we're going to have to have to try and deal with. Yeah, well, in true Human Factors Cast fashion, we've opened a can of worms that we don't intend to pack back up. Do you have any other closing thoughts on this one, Barry, before we move on? Fundamentally, I think it's a really interesting topic. I think it's something that we have to have at the forefront of somebody's mind, not necessarily mine, to be able to try and solve because we can't just population decline. Whilst I don't think it's necessarily the problem that people think it is, if we walk into it with our eyes closed, then we are storing the problems for later on. Yeah, I agree. We got to think about this stuff now, people. All right, thank you to our patrons this week for selecting our topic, and thank you to our friends over at Futurism for our new story this week. If you want to follow along, we do post the links to all the original articles on our weekly roundups and our blog. You can also join us on our discord for more discussion on these stories and more. We're going to take a quick break and then we'll be back to see what's going on in the Human Factors community right after this. Human Factors Cast brings you the best in Human Factors news, interviews, conference coverage, and overall fund conversations into each and every episode we produce. But we can't do it without you. The human factors. Cast Network is 100% listenersupported. 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That's right. Switching gears and getting to it came from this is the part of the show where we search all over the Internet to bring you topics that the human factors psychology engineering community is talking about. If you find any of these answers useful, give us a like to help other people find this content. We got three tonight. This first one here is by metric 90 on the user experience subreddit, they write should I follow UX guides or my own ideas for UX projects? I'm working alone on a project for my UX portfolio and I feel lost. I've been trying to follow UX guides and steps on what to do next, but I don't feel like I'm getting any closer to my goal. What the guides want me to do doesn't seem to line up well with ending up with a good final product. I do intend to follow good UX practices, but should I just do what I think is best path to finishing the project? Or should I follow guides because the people who made them knew what they were talking about? Barry, what is your opinion on this? A guide? It's a guide, not an instructional manual. Fundamentally, right, I'm going to hit the It depends button because you're doing this for your US portfolio and not necessarily for an end client. So it depends what you're trying to showcase. But fundamentally, if this was me doing this in the day job, I would be strongly tempted to follow your own nose. And I guess I'm saying that with a couple of years experience under my belt. But you use your own development process. You know where you want to get to. So develop the plan on how you want to get there and then use the guides to help you along the way. But like I said, the guides aren't a process manual. They're not a definitive instruction book because UX guides don't owe any guides, really don't necessarily have exactly what you're trying to do in mind. They're a general guide, so when they're useful, use them. If they're not useful and they're not helping you get towards your end goal, don't use them. Follow your nose and get there. But that doesn't necessarily mean that you're right. You do have to do a bit of reflection as to why the guy is not working. Because it's like if you step out of any process, as long as you're justified and you've done the right sort of analysis to say, right, why am I stepping out a process document? It understand why you're doing it. As long as you're doing that, then actually you're fine because you might get to the other side of what this chasm is and you're like, actually, now I understand that better. I could actually go and implement something, that's fine. But fundamentally, I think my message is a guide as a guide, it's not an instruction manual. Use them when they work, don't use them if they don't. You took my answer, Barry. I think that's absolutely right and it's very prolific what you just said, because it was what I was going to say too. No, I think there's a couple of key things that I want to highlight here is that, yes, you should absolutely look at it when it makes sense to. But the thing for me is that in this role we should really be focused on understanding when to use what. And so I strongly feel that in sort of a research role, that is what you should be doing is understanding when to use what method to get the thing out of the study or the research that you want to get out of it is going to make the most sense. And if you do need a guide to figure out how to do those methods, that's fine. There's plenty of good best practices on how to perform those methods. But matching the methodology to the research task or sort of the hypothesis that you want to either confirm or disprove, then I think you should know roughly what's going to get you there. If you don't, I'm sure there's a guide for it, but again, it will tell you sort of a rough approximation of how to get there, not necessarily the steps that you need to get there. And it's all about adaptation. You see these guys, you adapt them to your needs. That is a critical skill in which you need to be successful, I think, in this role. That's just my two cent. Any other last thoughts on that one? Yeah, I guess one more just on the use of I mean, not just UX guides, but methods in general. Don't feel you have to use them just because everybody else's because use cases are different anyway. Otherwise you're not doing a unique project. But just because everybody else is using a method doesn't make it good. Actually, I've been in a case where I've used a very popular method, but then when you look at the research into it and I didn't quite get the answer I wanted, and then when you look deeper into it, I think everybody else had done the same thing. They've used it, not got quite what they wanted and gone, oh, actually the method wasn't that good, but because everyone else was using it in their thing, then it almost gets a false life. So just be critical about what it is that you're using and why you got to spill the details on that method. And the post may be all right. Probably could be a certain amount of framing. Okay, all right. Yeah, it'll come with a lot of framing. All right. This next one here is by Greenstayne. Seven six one on the Human factor subreddit. We always love it when we get one from the human factor subreddit. This is a series of questions with a statement as the post. It's all about who you know, not what you know. And the series of questions is GPA doesn't matter and won't give you an advantage when trying to get hired. Minor in human factors and major in something else. You're more likely to get human factors roll than someone with degree in human factors. Is that a fact? Skills don't transfer well to other job roles. If everyone can transition to human factors from a similar field, why can't human factors personnel transition to the field that it's comprised of? This is a statement that I'm going to ask you if you agree or disagree with. Is it all about who you know and not what you know? Well, it depends. Does it?



I've always sort of said that certainly in the UK, I think it's fairly true that human practice is a small domain and you are within largely one degree of freedom. You might not know specific individuals, but you almost always know a common individual, and that is almost a vetting process in of itself that actually if you don't know anybody common at all, then that's almost certainly for me, it's almost a bit of a flag. Maybe not if you're a brand new graduate into the role, but if you've been around for a while and we don't know anybody in the same spheres, then that acts as a bit of a flag to me. But equally, if you've been mentored and stuff like that. But that doesn't necessarily give you an advantage in being more capable. I find capable people do tend to rise to the top, so it's a mixture. Let me help break this down. It's an advantage if you know people. It is a massive advantage, although I don't think it's necessarily not what you know, because I think that is a huge part of it. Here's the thing, I wouldn't stick my neck out for you if I knew that you couldn't do the job, at least in some capacity. Exactly. We talked about this a couple of weeks ago with somebody who is like, annoyed that their boss was hiring all these people that were their friends and yeah, I would be too if they couldn't perform the job. And that's where I'm saying, like, if I know someone is in a sort of tangential field but can do research methods or understands the domain enough to try to apply it and is competent and capable, then why would I not hire them if I'm familiar with their work? So yes, it's a huge advantage, but I think there is a lot of that domain knowledge that you need to know in order to get halfway there, if that makes sense. So people aren't just going to stick out their neck for you, Willynilly, in a lot of cases because their reputation is on the line as well. Yeah, just to jump in on that. Because the opposite is true as well, isn't it? If you're not very good, this is a small domain and like say if people ask for a reference, well, you don't want to be seen to be giving out bad references and we don't want to see our discipline suffer for having people who can't do the job. So, yes, if you're not very good at what you're doing or you're trying to make claims that you can't stack up to, then, yeah, we do know each other and people do talk. Yeah, much like fertility rates and mortality rates, there is an interaction between skill and who you know, I'll leave it at that



time. Back to the story. All right, we got one more here. This is from the user Experience subreddit metric 90. Is it okay to assume certain aspects about a user based on other aspects? Break it down a little bit more for you. Is it okay to take into account other studies that have been done on groups of people to make assumptions about those groups? For example, is it okay to assume that younger people are not willing to wait as long as older people? Barry, what are your thoughts on this? Can you make assumptions based on other things about a user group? I would say yes, mainly because in my domain, my experience, the ability to get hold of an entire cohort of people, particularly in the defense world, particularly in the critical world, is almost few and far between. It's hard to get the full range of people that you want to engage with. So in many ways you end up making assumptions and as long as you can justify those assumptions and document them, then generally it's okay to allow you to fulfill that data. The only caveat I'll put around that is to make sure it's around secondary data, almost not the primary investigation. So if you're doing an investigation, you can't just go and nick somebody else's data to do your primary answer. But if you're trying to fill out the background of why people do things, then yeah, learn from other people. That's why the studies have been done. Yeah, I agree. Is this not the purpose of a persona? Because you are forming assumptions based on a subset of users that you are then using to make assumptions about a wider set of users that fit that profile. And you can certainly go off and look at some anthropometrical data. You can also look at sort of societal sociology studies on certain groups of people that you can make assumptions on, and psychology as well. A lot of times in these scientific articles they define their population that they're looking at and especially as it relates to generalizability. Right. And so you have to take that into account. As you read studies on these certain populations that are being researched, it's not going to be applicable to the general population unless it is one of those studies. But for groups of people, yes, pay attention to how they define the generalizability and what populations they're talking about. Are they saying this applies to college students because that's who they sampled a lot of times. That's what you find. Right. Is it generalizable to the larger public? Maybe. Is it, you know, certain socioeconomical status, those types of things? Yes. You can absolutely make assumptions of people. Groups of people, not individuals. Make sure that is clear. Groups of people. Because once you start sort of making assumptions about individuals, that is then prejudice. So take that and shove it. Anyway, I'm spicy today. Let's just get into the last part of the show. One More thing. Barry, what's your one more thing this week? I'm excited this week because coming up on the 29 August, NASA has launched Net atomos rocket. And just how cool is that's? Basically the first major step for NASA to be able to then looking to set things up on the moon and then going to Mars and things like that. So I just think it's really exciting time. There's also a very slightly selfish reason that about 18 months ago we interviewed people from the Orion project on NASA, which is obviously part of the overall atomous thing. So it's just really exciting to see that they're going to have an uncrewed mission launch on the 29th. And as long as that window doesn't shift, I'm going to be glued to the TV watching that because I think it's going to be brilliant. I was hoping you'd say, I'm going to watch it live because that would be something seen some of the photos, people are going take photos of it because they've done the ten hour transition to launch pad and it's all set up. It just looks there is a difference, I think, and I don't know why, between when NASA puts up a rocket and then when SpaceX and the other ones have put up rockets. I don't know why, but we expect the SpaceX ones to do well, now, that's kind of something. But when NASA is sort of rolling something out, it kind of looks a bit old school, but it looks like he's going to do something like really good. Yeah. My one More thing. This week, I have two here, but I'm only going to talk about one because one will likely have more results after next week. We'll see. The one I'm going to talk about here is that there's some erratic velocity in the pacing of my work lately, and it's been really interesting to observe because it's been fast and now it's slow, slow, slow. And you'll find this is typical for a lot of folks is that you'll have some downtime followed by some really frantic work, followed by some more downtime. And I wanted to comment on sort of that erratic pace. I think it's just interesting because it's nice when you actually get a breather and like, I had some time to make the show notes today and I hope it showed. But anyway, that's it for today, everyone. If you like this episode and enjoy some of the discussion about Human Factors issues around, let's say, certain aging subpopulations, I'll encourage you to go listen to episode 251. Grandma, relax. It's just a robot. So we talk about robots in aging population homes. Comment wherever you're listening with what you think of the story this week. For more in depth discussion, you can always join us on our discord community. Visit our official website, sign up for our newsletter. Stay up to date with all the latest Human Factors news. If you like what you hear, you want to support the show? Become a show sponsor. Just kidding. You can always leave us a five star review that is free for you to do right now. Go do that. Tell your friends about us. That is also free for you to do and really helps us grow if you want to, and have the financial means to, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Like I said, that really does go forward to making sure that the lights are turned on over here at the show and at the lab. As always, links to all of our socials and our website are in the description of this episode. Mr. Barry Kirby, thank you for being on the show today. Where can our listeners go find you if they want to talk about baby making? What do you mean? For a bit? For the first time? Great. You can find me on Twitter. I know the socials at Bazaarscore or committed to some of our interviews at Twelve to Humanfacts podcast, which is twelve I forgot I wrote that. As for me, I meant to change it. I've been your host. Nick Rome. You can find me on our discord and across social media at nick ending. Thanks again for tuning into Human Factors cast. Until next time. M Japan.


Barry KirbyProfile Photo

Barry Kirby

Managing Director

A human factors practitioner, based in Wales, UK. MD of K Sharp, Fellow of the CIEHF and a bit of a gadget geek.