Perhaps you may have heard of the unusual phenomena of couples who are sitting next to each other in bed texting each other instead of talking?
Some have asked why would that occur?
A recent Free Energy Theory for the brain has emerged. One crucial key theme runs through these theories and that is optimization. The brain seems exquisitely tuned for determining minimal energy expenditure for expected reward.
In the case of conversation in bed, texting takes less energy than speaking. The small muscles of the fingers expend less calories than the cost of energy of moving one’s entire diaphragm to intake air and push that air past vocal cords, which also must be dynamically moved, along with the throat and the tongue to form words.
This suggests that our young generation of teens, who turn to text more than phone conversations, are simply optimizing energy utility.
Today, changes to workflow are often measured in expected outcomes such as revenue and “buy in” is expected to get users to use them.
Applying the Free Energy Theory for the brain to the design suggests that we could get even better success if we could measure the caloric expenditure for a task before and after the change.
Changes that result in lower overall caloric expenditure will be those that are more readily and spontaneously adopted by an organization.
Keep in mind. A full 30% of the body’s energy is consumed by the brain which means that the caloric burden of cognition must also be taken into account when assessing whether a change will be readily adopted.
It is said that the best programmers combine the personality traits of hubris, laziness, and impatience. “There must be an easier way. I know I can fix this and I want the solution now.”
Perhaps they are on to something.
When one looks at the success of Apple’s iPod scroll wheel versus the four-directional navigation of previous MP3 players – one can see that the caloric expenditure was dramatically less to achieve the “expected reward” of playing the desired music.
How many other successes and failures in healthcare could have been due to or ameliorated by focus on a Free Energy Theory of the brain approach to design?