The application of skill and imagination to create new things

I’ve long thought that typewriters were amazing. I used the above machine in my freshman year of college. The image called out to me, so I decided to try and understand why. Consulting the web, I discovered that in 1575 an Italian printmaker named Francesco Rampazetto built a machine to impress letters on paper. Centuries and many iterations later, the machines were huge and impractical. Then in 1868, Americans Christopher Latham Sholes, Carlos Gladden and Samuel W. Soule of Milwaukee invented the first commercially successful, small device that everyday people could use to type words on paper. A prototype was made by machinist Matthias Schwalbach and E. Remington and Sons (sewing machine fame) purchased the patent for $12,000. To promote and sell the machine, they called it a “typewriter.”

The number, variety and complexity of working parts in a typewriter still has me marveling at how a person could envision the whole system and then create the many metal parts such that they fit together perfectly to perform its function. “Ingenuity,” the quality of being clever, original and inventive is certainly the word for it.

In the movie The Martian starring Matt Damon, his character was a master of ingenuity, inventing solutions to seemingly impossible, life threatening circumstances. After a moment of  accepting his inevitable death he decides instead to survive—and he gets busy. And the television series MacGyver has gained popularity in part, I believe, because ingenuity overcomes seemingly impossible situations. Although these are fictitious stories, they demonstrate the very real capacity for human beings to envision and then act in order to build, improve, discover, prevent or recover. To innovate is to advance.

We all know, the motion picture and television industries have evolved the capacity to seamlessly put on the screen anything we can imagine. I think humanity itself is going down that road. The ability to create what we envision is so strong in us, we can well imagine that human beings placed on a lifeless planet, given enough time and opportunity, could turn it into a habitable place, perhaps even transform it into a living system. Like my dad often said, “The impossible just takes a little longer.”

Along with the application of ingenuity and innovation comes advances in understanding our fuller potentials, including who we are, why we’re here, what works and what doesn’t work and the part we’re playing in the unfolding story of the universe. We are not only human beings, we are also human doings.

Observing human activity over the past several decades, geneticists have found that even in the physical domain, “Human evolution has sped up in the past 40,000 years, becoming 100 times faster in the past 5000 years alone.” Buckminster Fuller, whom I was privileged to know, found that up until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years. “Nanotechnology knowledge is doubling every two years and clinical knowledge every 18 months. On average human knowledge is doubling every 13 months.” In 2013 IBM postulated that the Internet will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours. And then there’s Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, which says “There’s exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. As we discover more effective ways to do things, we also discover more effective ways to learn.” He says we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate.

From the perspective of the individual person, the activities of satisfying day-to-day needs and wants challenges us to be clever, original and inventive. We envision and take action to secure a better life for ourselves and our families. And we’re always looking for a better way of doing things. Standing back and looking at all this activity from an evolutionary perspective, it appears that we are agents of the universe, exercising a variety of drives that are moving us through increasing complexity, awareness and experimentation to become more on its behalf, perhaps to realize more of its unlimited potential. Could it be that through us, and possibly other intelligent creatures, the universe is expressing all that it can be? Assuming so, I asked myself: Specifically, what are these drives, the urges within us, that are moving the human project forward?

Pondering this when my head hit the pillow, I kept getting up to make notes. Before long, annoyed but grateful, I had a list of action words, ways the universe is “using” us to become more aware, envision, build and grow.

Accelerate / Accentuate / Affiliate / Allocate / Appropriate / Articulate / Authenticate / Communicate / Compensate / Concentrate / Congregate / Contemplate / Create / Cultivate / Decorate / Demonstrate / Discriminate / Educate / Eliminate / Extrapolate / Fascinate / Fixate / Illuminate / Incorporate / Integrate / Interpolate / Investigate / Invigorate / Manipulate /  Migrate / Orchestrate / Participate / Penetrate / Perpetrate / Procreate / Propagate / Reciprocate / Recreate

It seems to me, this partial list of urges illustrate how so much of what we’re dreaming about and creating is the universe operating through us—including the conflicts and breakdowns that are showing what doesn’t work. These urges, better seen as “energies,” lead me to conclude that we’re not just here for ourselves, that we are the leading edge of Earth consciousness, manifesting the world by acting on our everyday needs, wants and aspirations—and finding ingenious ways of realizing them. From this perspective, the universe is as much a verb as it is a noun. A doing, a process of increasing complexity. Thus, the typewriter begets the computer, begets…

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us

Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, abolitionist and poet

My other sites—

Love And Light A twice-weekly blog featuring wisdom quotes and perspectives in science and spirituality intended to inspire and empower

David L. Smith Photography Black and white and color photography

Ancient Maya Cultural Weekly blog featuring the traits that made this civilization unique 


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