How do you solve the world’s hardest problems? And how would you respond if they’re unsolvable? As user experience professionals, we’re focused on people who live and work in the here and now. We dive into research, define the problem, break down silos, and focus on people’s intent to create solutions.
But how does our UX work change when a project lasts not for one year, or even 10 years, but for 10,000 years or more? Enter the “Wicked Problem,” or situations with so much ambiguity, complexity, and interdependencies that—by definition—they can’t be solved. Using real-world examples from NASA’s Voyager program, the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, and other long-term UX efforts, we’ll talk about the challenges of creating solutions for people whom we’ll never know in our lifetimes. The ways we grapple with ambiguity give us a new perspective on our work and on what it means to build experiences that last.