Posted by: rolfsky | May 15, 2007

iPods are the new pants

Some time, far away in the future, school children will huddle around a glass box containing a small silver artifact propped up against a block of lucite. Next to the artifact there will be a false-color video endlessly looping through a zoom deep into electronic circuitry explaining what’s inside. A white card in front of the artifact will be neatly labeled “iPod, 2010 c.e.”

Now, the school children will not regard the iPod as an interesting cultural artifact. They’ve never seen anything like it, but a few of them will note its incredible complexity and marvel at the craftsmanship. All those lines in the circuits, so straight and so tiny. So finely wrought. Obviously skill and thought went into creating this device for holding together a sound sphere. So many years ago, some individuals used this primitive yet elegant devices to control the sound they heard throughout their days.

While visiting the Royal Museum in London, I had a similar experience examining a bronze cloak-pin from the Roman era. Nose nearly pressed to the glass I found myself imaging who created and who wore this clip to keep their cloak about their body. It never occurred to me that this simple pin might have been regarded as an ostentatious display of wealth or marker of importance.

Somewhere in history, Ogg and Grogg (my prototypical cave-people) decided that they were cold in the mornings and sometimes during the day. Using hides and flint blades, they defied father Weather and fashioned cloaks to abate the elements and keep themselves warm. Even before that, they’d defied mother Nature by capturing fire and using it to cook up foods which they could never have eaten before.

Humans are natural tool-makers and tool users, but we often forget to ask _why_ we create these tools. Unsatisfied with the world as it is, our tools enable us to leverage and modify our world to suit us better. Roots to tough to eat raw? Boil them. Tired of getting cold and wet? Fashion a rough cloak from bear skins. Want to keep your cloak about you on the Roman frontier? Pin it with something from the local smith.

Cloak is an interesting word, both a noun and a verb. As a noun, it protects the wearer from the cold, rain or wind for example (Wikipedia). As a verb, to cloak is to disguises, conceals or protect something.

Humans are fed up with listening to whatever might be around them randomly. Why not create a new cloak for hearing, protecting us from the random and variable weather? Let’s put some pants on our ears.

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