Monday, November 08, 2010

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Making things we don't even understand ...

Man’s first inventions were simple things; things whose usefulness was apparent to everyone; a stone-knife, an arrow, a spear, a digging implement, etc. Nowadays though, our inventions are much more complicated; so complicated, that it takes hundreds or even thousands of people contributing to their manufacture. At one time a single individual could make a stone knife and that person could teach another to do the same thing, and so forth. Now though, we are surrounded by implements and objects that we use in daily life, but no single person could ever hope to make these things without the assistance and input of hundreds or thousands of others. Take our mobile phone, we need people to make the glass, the case, the diodes, the chips, the plastics, the polymers, the software, etc; then there are the second-level contributors; those who drill for the oil that is used to make the plastic that is used to make the case, etc. The there are those who transport the oil-drillers, from land to a sea-based oil platform, and those who support them, etc. As end-users of these implements/objects, we tend to take them for granted when in fact their existence owes a debt to many thousands of people, each making a very specific and unique contribution.
I am talking about this, as someone asked me the other day ‘Who invented the Darce choke?’ Well, I can easily answer the question of where the name has come from, but as to who first worked out the mechanics of the choke and developed the various angles of application; who can possibly know? I remember thinking about this upon seeing photographs of Omoplata (an advanced BJJ technique) being used in an Indian wrestling pit, some sixty years ago. Who invented cooking? Answer: lots of people. Countless people make their contributions to the development of the things we may learn in an evening class. Ideally, when we learn something new, we build on it, adding to the work of the people who came before us. Quite often though, we tend to grasp at the ‘end result’ of a technique, without having been privy to the evolutionary process from which the technique has evolved. It is always good if possible, to understand the evolution of a technique, and that way we develop a more wholesome form of ownership of it. A superficial understanding of things ultimately means a lower or poorer quality of ownership; this may be acceptable in the many aspects of the throw-away, ever-changing society we live in – but surely not, in the meaningful and deeper aspects of our lives – or in the art we practice …
JBW

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3 Comments

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Marty 9:39 am

Ever read I, Pencil?

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Anonymous 10:06 am

To bake a loaf of bread requires a whole community to go from grain seed to toast. That's a couple of thousand years old 'tech'. New has little to do with complexity. Anyone for building a pyramid?

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