The field of User Experience is an exciting one. The idea that we can and should design products that do useful things, and do them simply and well, may be an obvious one, but it has taken many years to emerge.
We've wrested technology from the cognoscenti and put it in the hands of everyone. This is no minor achievement. In a small few years, our so-called "information technology" has changed from something technical and frightening (think DOS or SAP) to a trusted, friendly, easy-to-use product in our purse or shirt pocket (think iAnything).
However, there's a risk that a new techno-elite emerges to take the place of the cognoscenti. And because designers, almost by definition, belong to the new elite, it's necessary to have methods, paths, and philosophies for them to remain focused on and dedicated to the needs of that most ordinary person, the "user".
There are two elements to UX. The "X" is "experience", and the "U" is "user". The way - the only way - to understand users is to spend time with them, to observe them, to focus consistently and unremittingly on them. There are no short-cuts. Designers who presume to know the attitudes, preferences, behaviours or concerns of their users are not doing UX, they are doing "You X".