Most objects are black boxes

The level of complexity of our houses and cities has an inverse relationship with the knowledge we have about the objects that populate it, for obvious reasons: for a citizen in a medium city to know how everhing they use works, they would have to spend much time absorbing specific knowledge. Of course, this is impractical.

The problem is that this black box attitude has permeated culture in places where electronic devices are common. For example: a city citizen can own a bycicle, a relatively common and easily understandable and low-tech device, and still don’t know how to troubleshoot common problems (as any worker of a bike repair shop can tell you).

The right to repair movement is a reaction towards this kind of phenomenon, but there is clearly a lack of incentive towards tinkering.

How to approach a black box?

According to ‘Can a biologist fix a radio?’, what it takes is unambiguous models that engineers use - for example, simulations rather than description of individual components. Ironically, while one might understand much of a complex system from breaking it in different ways, what is interesting in the long run is understanding what do each of the pieces do, but also, crucially, how do the properties of these individual elements interact to produce a sustained/working system. Else, the break-things-to-understand approach ends up being a reduction of the system to its individual elements (ie: knockout gene experiments).