Just-in-time Interface

Just-in-time Interface

This is the idea that an interface can present to you what you should be interacting with when you should be interacting with it in a way that reduces the stakes of those interactions and keeps you in a state of Wu Wei.

I’ve felt the potential of interfaces like this when you dive into a contained environment like Anki and Readwise. These are examples of products that show you things when they “feel” like you should see it. To some degree this removes the burden of choice from your behavior, which is freeing. Of course, currently these are contained interfaces that require user choice to engage with them in the first place.

A better digital assistant

A lot of this interface’s goals can be achieved by fully fleshing out the possibilities of what a digital assistant can do.

The Siri watchface on the Apple Watch is another example of an attempted just-in-time interface. Apple and Google do try to surface content intelligently more and more, and this is clearly movement towards just-in-time.

Notifications are an explicit example of a not-at-all-just-in-time interface, though recent updates like notification summaries try to alleviate that pain.

Just-in-time OS

This sort of interface would likely work best at the operating system level, since the OS has so much information on your interactions and can control your engagements at a wider breadth.

The OS level system has been thought about by Andy Matuschak as part of a potential Spaced Everything future, as well as by Rene Ritchie in what he calls SiriOS.

Just-in-time system design

When thinking about designing systems generally, I buy that a good structure is one you can offload mental burdens to.

A just-in-time system is the best way I can imagine that software could help us offload our mental burdens.

An interface for increased freedom

As our work lives become more dynamic, and more people work from home or for themselves, this sort of system will be more and more useful. Since this just-in-time interface is at its core a tool for time and effort efficiency, this sort of system makes more sense as the value of time increases. As more people achieve True Freedom, the need for tools like this will grow.