Thriving organisms and other complex adaptive systems are often characterized by their ability to adapt to changing environments across both space and time scales.

Some designers think that our built environments should be designed to similarly respond and adapt to environmental changes.

But do we need intelligent products and smart homes?

People are smart. And highly adaptable.

People can make and remake almost anything from simple, versatile and flexible materials. Together, people and materials form adaptable, intelligent, systems.

I argue that rather than smarter products, we need more versatile products.

In consumerist societies, people are primarly consumers, often faintly and indirectly connected to the transformation processes of their increasingly specialised and automated physical environments.  These processes are often executed large scale, linearly and destructively.

For some purposes, specialised products and processes make sense. But the bulk of mass produced goods, ‘stuff’, can be replaced by a few simple things, from which we can create and recreate useful and joyful tools and toys, using and developing versatile skills.


Henrik Angelsen Haanes, AHO, 2011