It’s a dangerous world out there. Technological progress and increasing complexity constantly create new hazards. Our first line of defense is protocols, which I define as intentional patterns of constraint on human behavior. How do these patterns develop? This essay derives a theory of protocol evolution from historical improvements in workplace safety, and explores what factors drive protocol selection as a technology matures. Understanding this evolutionary history of protocols, we argue, is increasingly essential for solving real-world problems associated with complex technologies that mature over long periods.

The associated Self Ensured Card Collection (in collaboration with Shuya Gong) is a twelve-suit deck that teams can use to enhance the health ergonomics of their workplaces. It includes protocols for movement, office design, nutrition, stress management, and company norms. Play Self Ensured with your team, a coworker, or Solitaire-style!

Sharing Protocol