Can you imagine having a warm, fuzzy feeling when you think about your personal computer? If you were sit back and ponder what your computer has done for you lately, can you imagine realizing that it contributed directly to your happiness and well-being? That it has enriched your closest relationships, helped you grow as a person, and brought you closer to your goals? Not likely.
For one, most people are not technologists or technicians. Computers are highly complex and generally mysterious to nearly everyone. Their rigid, complex structure and behaviour tends to evoke negative emotions like irritation, aggravation, frustration, sometimes fear, insecurity, anxiety, and occasionally rage. When everything goes smoothly, not much is thought about the computer at all. So the typical perception ranges from neutral to negative.
And for two, we use our computers as a platform and a medium. So while we derive personal benefits at times, we don't attribute them to "the computer". It's the person on the other side of our conversations, a particular software application, or the entertainment we've consumed that is linked to any positive emotional response. "The computer" gets as much thought as our roads and power grid - it's a utility and a platform that occasionally breaks down.
The situation would be radically different if your day-to-day computer experience evoked strongly positive emotions. You would be able to claim with a straight face that your computer was designed for your personal benefit.
Here's a few properties lacking in our current experience which would contribute to positive perceptions. Each will be explored in greater detail later on.
Start at the beginning
We seem to have forgotten what a beginning looks like. Before the first small step, there is nearly nothing. After that first small step, there is one small thing. Then there is the next small step. Everyone can handle that.
Not everyone can handle being dumped into the middle of a strange complex environment thousands of steps past its beginning. That is the epitome of stressful. Yet that's just what happens when we first experience computers and any significant piece of software thereafter. We may eventually become familiar with the workings of our strange and mismatched systems, but we should not later confuse that familiarity with inuitiveness or ease of use. It would be unwise to consider the degree of our investment or our dependence to be evidence of any kind of ideal or quality.
If you could begin at a point of minimal structure and then develop it incrementally as a mirror of your unique self, you might be able to imagine starting over. You would gradually arrive at a strange complexity as viewed from the outside, but to you it would be intimately familiar and even downright enjoyable. This type of experience is very different from a forced adaptation to a pre-existing complex reality.
Mirror the individual
The structure of your computer should reflect your personal reality as closely as possible. Each of us is subject to the general realities of cognition and psychology, so that is a sensible foundation. Atop that foundation is the general structure of daily life we all have in common.
From that basic structure, your computer should smoothly adapt to your specific nature on a much deeper level than what happens now. The data held within this environment becomes a loose but meaningfully structured accumulation of your own actions and perceptions.
The more closely the structure and data mirrors your reality, the more you can benefit and the more positive you will perceive your experience to be. Our frustrations are due to the friction between the mismatched structures of technology and personal reality.
Active, not passive.
We've done passive computers; they don't do much except accumulate malware and throw up aggravating errors. Roads and power grids are passive. We don't often get emotional about them.
An active computer, however, employing a constructive feedback loop based on deeply mirrored structures and data, could apply algorithms that produce significant value to the individual. That's something to get emotional about.