Technology, Time, and Design

When I was learning English in Japan, an American teacher showed students an interesting Hollywood movie. It is a story about a creature visiting our planet earth from the outer space. It is widely known that the Voyager aircraft brings messages for extraterrestrials, and in the movie, the creature visits the earth because he (or she?) gets the message and it goes “come visit us”. The creature, which originally did not have a shape, gets a man’s body, and gradually learns one of the earth people’s languages, which is English.

But according to this article, it won’t happen in the near future: Voyager left solar system last year, new research shows. Voyager may or may not in solar system now, and it will take a long long time to have a chance to encounter an extraterrestrial.

A fascinating fact is that the aircraft was launched in 1977 and still sends signals from the “edge” of solar system to the earth daily. How many people own a vehicle that was made around 1977 and still works properly? Probably not many. Some people may own a car from that era because they have cultural values (may not be as valuable as those from the 30s, though), but I guess not many of them use it daily.

I often wonder which is better, making products that will last long, or making products that meet the needs of a particular time. There is no single answer. It depends. In terms of environmental impact, of course, it is generally better to make products that will last long. But technically, it generally costs more to make such products (I bet a Voyager aircraft is way more expensive than a typical vehicle!). More importantly, people generally like to have new things. Is this good or bad? If all the human beings give up to have new things, does it mean all creative people have to turn their interest toward something conservative?

I just looked around me and thought what is the oldest thing here. It’s a Japanese folding fan. I bought it in 1997, and that type of folding fan has been used in Japan for more than a millennium. Ideally, I want to design something like that.

August 25, 2013Permalink