Monday, June 02, 2003

The Worthless Objects

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How important were the "worthless objects" in the formation of our modern life?
I mean worthless things like "spices" which were the main reason for Europeans to try to find a way for reaching India. "Spices" were the reason for passing the Atlantic ocean and the "discovery" of the New World and all the disasters and beauties that followed it.
Or things like sewing machine and zipper which were invented in 19th century. They transformed the style of clothing in the next 100-150 years, but their role in this transformation is not mentioned that much. I go one step forward and ask myself what is their role in the transformation of human beings' lifestyle and behaviors? Without the invention of sewing machine and zipper the mass production of jeans -and informal clothing in general- could not be possible. Informal clothing have changed the way people stand and walk all over the world. So one can ask himself how much these kinds of inventions have been affected the way we talk and walk today?
What about pencils, fountain pens, and ball pens? How much the invention of these little writing machines has transformed our writing habits, our literature and our daily life? How important they have been in establishing a modern system of documentation and measurement for every thing?
What about watches and clocks? By beginning to use them human beings developed a feeling for "minutes" and "seconds." Watches and clocks completely changed our conception of time. The quantitative measurement of time -that used to be more of an unclear feeling- transformed a vague concept to an exact measurement of hours, minutes, and seconds. And quantitative measurement of time made many other concepts measurable as well. In this story of eggs and chickens one can ask if these inventions owe their existence to the modern science or it is the science that owes them its rebirth.
I think a history of worthless objects might tell us more than what we think about humans and the way our modern mind works.