Initial definition: The concept of proactive idiocy is one that acknowledges the openness and unpredictability of everyday objects and their potential to trigger reflection in the researcher. When objects “misbehave” – when they behave unexpectedly – they can be understood as being an “idiot object.” In Speculative Design, the “idiot object” can be used as a tool to allow both users and designers to have a wider understanding of certain situations in both their planned and unplanned states.
Applying the method of proactive idiocy likely requires many iterations/samples of the situation or an examination of the situation over a long period of time in order for the scope of the “idiocy” to be reasonably approximated. For example, a programmed music improvisor from 2020 might be considered an “idiot object,” as its behavior might not always “agree” (a subjective matter) with the human it is improvising with. In order to understand the scope of the idiot object, and from it the scope of the system, multiple play-throughs with the machine improvisor must be had, as each play-through yields different results. In this example, the implementation of the idiot object would allow for potentially wider reflection on the process of improvisation, music making, performance, etc. It is also worth noting that the human can, too, be considered an idiot object.