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Tools never die. A challenge for you to disprove..?

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  • OneBike2Ride
    I posted this over on the TechLathe group to be sure more people see it. If you belong to both groups, simply choose which post to ignore. :-) ... If you read
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 31, 2011
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        I posted this over on the TechLathe group to be sure more people see it. If you belong to both groups, simply choose which post to ignore. :-)

      If you read the following and believe you DO know of some legitimate tools and/or technology that are absolutely gone forever from anywhere on the face of the earth, by all means click the title link, scroll to the bottom of their page and add your comments with your information. (Conversely, you may want to check their article a few times over the next few days to see later user comments, and look for tools posted by users as "extinct" that you know are still in use somewhere.)

      Tools Never Die. Waddaya mean, Never?

      12:07 am. February 1, 2011
      by Robert Krulwich

      Kevin Kelly should know better, but boldly, brassily, (and totally incorrectly, I'm sure), he said this on NPR:

      "I say there is no species of technology that have ever gone globally extinct on this planet."

      What does that mean? I asked him. (Kevin, among other things, is founding editor of Wired Magazine and runs a very popular blog, called Cool Tools , that reviews new gadgets.)

      That means, he said, "I can't find any [invention, tool, technology] that has disappeared completely from Earth."

      Nothing? I asked. Brass helmets? Detachable shirt collars? Chariot wheels?

      Nothing, he said.

      Skyhorse Publishing
      Montgomery Ward & Co.
catoalogue from 1895.
      Can't be, I told him. Tools do hang around, but some must go extinct.

      If only because of the hubris — the absolute nature of the claim — I told him it would take me a half hour to find a tool, an invention that is no longer being made anywhere by anybody.

      Go ahead, he said. Try.

      If you listen to our Morning Edition debate, I tried carbon paper (still being made), steam powered car engine parts (still being made), Paleolithic hammers (still being made), 6 pages of

      Agriculture tools from the 1895
Montgomery Ward & Co. catalog.

      Agriculture tools from the 1895 Montgomery Ward & Co. catalogue

      agricultural tools from an 1895 Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalogue (every one of them still being made), and to my utter astonishment, I couldn't find a provable example of an technology that has disappeared completely.

      And Kevin continues to insist he is right. In his new book What Technology Wants , he says:

      A close examination of a supposedly extinct bygone technology almost always shows that somewhere on the planet someone is still producing it. A technique or artifact may be rare in the modern urban world but quite common in the developing rural world. For instance, Burma is full of oxcart technology; basketry is ubiquitous in most of Africa; hand spinning is still thriving in Bolivia. A supposedly dead technology may be enthusiastically embraced by a heritage-based minority in modern society, if only for ritual satisfaction. Consider the traditional ways of the Amish, or modern tribal communities or fanatical vinyl record collectors. Often old technology is obsolete, that is, it is not very ubiquitous or is second rate, but it still may be in small-time use.

      I know Kevin's wrong. There have to be prominent exceptions to his Technologies Never Die claim. Problem is, I'm the wrong person to prove him wrong. I'm just not tool-wise. Pens instantly dry up when I touch them, computers — don't even ask. So what I'm wondering is: Can you help me here?

      Help Me!

      If you honestly think there is a tool or invention from any century, any culture, any time (no science fiction please, we are trying to be real here) that has gone completely extinct, please send it in.

      Just mention the tool in the "comment" section.

      We will publish the most promising ones in the next Krulwich Wonders... blogpost, which we're calling "Am I Extinct?"

      When you go to that post and see the alphabetical listing of purportedly extinct human inventions, if you see a tool or machine on that list that you know or think is still being made somewhere today, please please, write and tell us.

      We will post your claims of extinction and your counterclaims together.

      We will keep this post open a couple of days and if, collectively, we come up with a list of plausibly extinct technologies, it's back to Kevin for Round Two of this colloquy.

      I know I can count on you people. You always bite me when I say something wrong. Now it's time to bite Kevin.

      Kevin Kelly's new book is called What Technology Wants, (Viking, 2010); He and I and the writer Steven Johnson debated some of these issues at the New York Public Library in October, 2010. That debate is on video . A different, edited version that focuses on Kevin and Steven's ideas about how technology evolves (and, says Kevin, has a primitive "will") appeared on a Radiolab podcast

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