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?

33 thoughts on “What is Existential Ergonomics?

  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!

    Liked by 1 person

  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!

    Liked by 4 people

  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.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is truly fascinating! I hadn’t previously heard of Pearce, but he seems to have some really interesting ideas. I’ll definitely be digging deeper. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  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.

    Liked by 2 people

  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/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I completely agree. The world that we live in is so complex and convoluted, which holds promise of a better future….or a rapidly unfolding nightmare. Studying computer science and philosophy sounds like an fascinating place to be right now–just 100 years ago they’d have seem completely unrelated, but the advance of technology is certainly opening up some interesting moral and ethical dialogues.
      Thank you so much for the nomination! Life has been hectic, so I just saw this, but graciously accept and will gladly participate. 🙂


  6. How could ergonomics not at least try to be existential? It seems to be a logical way to look at the world and use all the tools at our disposal to nourish the soul and make life better for everyone.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Omg. What a great line. Existential Ergonomics. And then followed up by some Jean-Paul Sartre! Generally speaking I prefer Schopenhauer over Satre… but only just. Being German I feel some measure of loyalty to my tribe, but really Satre is brilliant. So cheerful to have stumbled on this.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Olá
    Muito bom seu texto
    Mas cruelmente o ser humano
    não nasce livre e sim totalmente
    Depende de alguém que lhe cuide
    por muitos anos.
    Mesmo continua preso a sua
    cultura e hábitos de onde
    nasceu. Existe uma ilusão de
    O ser humano nasceu para ficar
    preso em gaiolas invisíveis.
    Tudo de bom
    Um abraço

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Reblogged this on From guestwriters and commented:
    Existence is primarily the problem of either being, having a mode of being, or not able to be. When looking at it, it is also particular and individual— always my existence, your existence, his existence, her existence, but also bounded in time, because one moment a person can be and another moment in time he or she can not be any more.

    In these days of lockdown because of CoViD-19 we notice too many people who worry too much about their existence and about the future, as if the present quarantine measures would be able to “kill” them, instead of making use of the now given free time to make something special for themself.


    1. Thank you for your comment. I agree that, generally speaking, humans are limited by their governments and culture wars. However, I also believe that we, as individuals, have the opportunity to exercise freedoms within areas of our control… and I think the areas within our control are greater than it would appear at first glance.

      Liked by 1 person

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