Rob van Kranenburg (2003): Inspiration Materials Rule of Innovation VII: Refrain: The hopper and the locust or how to innovate in closed loops

16/10/2021 - 18:55

Inspiration Materials
Rule of Innovation VII: Refrain: The hopper and the locust or how to innovate in closed loops

An act of dying is any transformation.
“Usually the individual hoppers reach adulthood and live solitary lives, stuffing their gullets with as much food as they can before mating. But when they find themselves surrounded by fellow grasshoppers – a circumstance that comes about when the weather’s right for overpopulation- the individuals physically transform. Their color alters; their anatomy shifts. They’ve become that pestilence known in old time as a plague of locusts. They migrate for hundreds of miles as a swarm, enabling themselves to survive even though their numbers divest the land of vegetation. The swarming state is like an extra phase in the life cycle, one that’s activated only if conditions warrant.” [1]
“As temperatures soared on Thursday, about 100,000 sun lovers flocked to the Scheveningen beach, but police urged people to stay away, saying the stretch of sand was full to capacity.” [2]
Any act of dying is a transformation.
All things tend to disappear, and especially things man made. ‘Ephemeralisation’ was Buckminster Fuller’s term for describing the way that a technology becomes subsumed in the society that uses it [3]. The pencil, the gramophone, the telephone, the cd player, technology that was around when we grew up, is not technology to us, it is simply another layer of connectivity. Ephemeralisation is the process where technologies are being turned into functional literacies; on the level of their grammar, however, there is very little coordination in their disappearing acts. These technologies disappear as technology because we cannot see them as something we have to master, to learn, to study. They seem to be a given. Their interface is so intuitive, so tailored to specific tasks, that they seem natural. In this we resemble the primitive man of Ortega y Gasset:
“…the type of man dominant to-day is a primitive one, a Naturmensch rising up in the midst of a civilised world. The world is a civilised one, its inhabitant is not: he does not see the civilisation of the world around him, but he uses it as if it were a natural force. The new man wants his motor-car, and enjoys it, but he believes that it is the spontaneous fruit of an Edenic tree. In the depths of his soul he is unaware of the artificial, almost incredible, character of civilisation, and does not extend his enthusiasm for the instruments to the principles which make them possible.” [4]
This unawareness of the artificial, almost incredible, character of Techné – the Aristotelian term for technique, skill – is only then broken when it fails us:
“Central London was brought to a standstill in the rush hour on July 25 2002 when 800 sets of traffic lights failed at the same time – in effect locking signals on red.” [5]
Every new set of techniques brings forth its own literacy: The Aristotelian protests against introducing pencil writing, may seem rather incredible now, at the time it meant nothing less than a radical change in the structures of power distribution. Overnight, a system of thought and set of grammar; an oral literacy dependant on a functionality of internal information visualization techniques and recall, was made redundant because the techniques could be externalised. Throughout Western civilization the history of memory externalisation runs parallel with the experienced disappearance of its artificial, man made, character. An accidental disappearance, however much intrinsic to our experience, that up till now has not been deliberate:
“The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” [6]
What will be the consequences of the merging of the analogue and the digital with the coming of RFID and pervasive computing? What is analogue then, what is digital? How many leeway, influence or power do we have in a world where everything is connected to everything and all speaks to all?