What is Existential Ergonomics?

“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.”

–Jean-Paul Sartre

What if we could wrestle down life’s big questions using the scientific method? What if we could systematically improve human thoughts, actions, and environments in a way that shapes personal meaning and significance? Existential ergonomics is my attempt to explore just that.

The word “existential” is loaded, and “ergonomics” is not well understood, so I’ll offer some perspective.

Existential is defined as “relating to human existence” or, more broadly, “the analysis of existence and the ways humans find themselves existing in the world.” The philosophy of existentialism is concerned with finding one’s self and the meaning of life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility.

Ergonomics, on the other hand, is the application of psychological and physiological principles to the engineering and design of products, processes, and systems. Think: the intuitive Apple operating systems, health-promoting standing desks, and prosthetic limbs. The ultimate goal of ergonomics is to reduce human error, increase productivity, enhance safety, and boost comfort with a specific focus on the interaction between the human and product or system.

Humans, by nature, are continually searching to find out who and what they are. This process unfolds across one’s lifetime, as choices are made based on experiences, beliefs, and outlooks. This raises the question: What might happen if we applied the principles of ergonomics to the pursuit of significance and self? What if we, as humans being, could study and design “right-fit” processes to optimize well-being and performance? What if the abstract and esoteric—such as consciousness, dreams, and aspirations—could be improved upon through the blending of psychology, sociology, engineering, and design?

20 thoughts on “What is Existential Ergonomics?

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  1. I love Existential Ergonomics! This is something that I believe in and I think is a good idea.This could help a lot with people born without a certain limb, or if they got injured and lost it. Keep writing!

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  2. You’re making an excellent point with this. It instantly raised in my mind a lot of “ifs”. It’s apparently simple to understand and easy to apply in daily life even with little education. However, I personally believe that this scientifically documented fact can only be implemented at a very young age. In other words we should raise our children with it. Sadly, they go to school and they are being brainwashed from day one and set for life with mostly fake values and principles of life. To name a few, I would mention the first ones as: be good, study, form a family, get a loan, buy a house, have kids, a nice car, some extra credit for holidays and for buying stuff you don’t need and so on and so forth. Even later in life we are bombarded with these type of messages. Kind of hard to resist them even if you’re head string. What can we do personally to change all that besides writing about it? I don’t know the answer either but our collective hard disk is already written. I just feel kind of frustrated about it and thinking about solutions constantly. Well, all we can do is to try make our voices heard. Keep writing beautiful stuff. Loved it. Honestly!

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  3. Interesting question. Quote: “What might happen if we applied the principles of ergonomics to the pursuit of significance and self? What if we, as humans being, could study and design “right-fit” processes to optimize well-being and performance? What if the abstract and esoteric—such as consciousness, dreams, and aspirations—could be improved upon through the blending of psychology, sociology, engineering, and design?”
    What if such is way too complex and there is a much simpler, totally available to all and sundry, method leading to awareness of self and its significance, optimizing well-being and performance in every possible way and situation? The simple answer is… become compassion. That path does not lead astray or to any dead end. It opens the mind to self empowerment and limitless vistas. It is the legacy of every true human being.

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  4. Your article speaks my mind and heart.
    My philosophy is to treat every knowledge equal in order not to close the eyes to sources which may be deemed “outdated” or eccentric, regardless of how marginalised it may be by todays standards.

    All too often it seems to me that modern research tries to reinvent the wheel by poking around in insignificant details when the source-principles are known since thousands of years already.

    That’s why I just started to write a series on ancient evolutionary principles to utilise and incorporate them into modern life.

    Any additional modern findings are most welcome to be put on that solid foundation then.

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  5. Glad to know what your blog/blog title is about, very intriguing philosophy, and a very complex branch. I have had thoughts about exploring this, since I am a student of Computer Science and philosophy. Combining genetics, philosophy, social behavior, psychology, historical growth and dreams is quite a complex endeavor, but this could be possible, since the recent advances in technology and Artificial Intelligence, cognitive science show promise, but the results would be a philosophy in themselves and i think there would be a lot of moral and ethical constraints on having such power, don’t you agree?
    Btw i nominated you for a liebster award, go check it out, looking forward to your responses, https://thethinkerscauldron.wordpress.com/2018/12/09/liebster-award-i/

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