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Necessity != the mother of invention, desire is

A youtube commenter, ironically calling themselves “teched246”, questioned my use of RFID technology for convenience purposes. Quite seriously I suggested they check out an Amish commune/farm (I really wasn’t joking), and they respond with “An amish farm sounds perfect- back to nature- peaceful- bliss. I’m not a technological junkie anyhow, as I don’t own a cellphone or an automobile, and also not planning on getting either.” … I sat there looking at their handle name and that comment and just laughed.

This weird and sometimes twisted up comment conversation (twisted due to the way replies work) actually covers some interesting ground, where she argues several things, but the most interesting one I thought was;

shouldn’t technology only be used out of necessity?

Something about that caught my attention. The answer seems obvious at first, but with today’s ever increasing rate of technological development, the question is being raised again and again in books, movies, etc. Ultimately though, I answered the question with a resounding NO, because the concept of “necessity” is astoundingly limited. Technology is always borne of desire… the desire to build a bigger/better shelter than the tree you’re trying to sleep under… the desire to farm food rather than constantly wander around to gather it… and everybody knows desire can never be quenched. Fire = discovery. Use of fire over being cold = desire. Candles over darkness = desire. Lightbulbs over candles = desire. Telegraphs and telephones over letters and postal services = desire. The old adage states “Necessity is the mother of invention”, but that is woefully incorrect.

Desire is the mother of invention,
and inspiration is the father

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3 Responses to “Necessity != the mother of invention, desire is”

  1. Cj says:

    You are being treated like a dog.
    This is the literal mark of the beast.
    WTF is wrong with you people?” -Youtube quote.

    My faith in humanity has been shaken. I cant stand people that fear things for the sake of fearing them, without even attempting to understand or question anything. Then again… in a sci-fi movie i would probably be the slightly insane scientist who insists on making the slimy green thing, that allready killed a few members of my staff, my friend.
    Nice youtube vidoes btw.

  2. Cj says:

    On a more serious note: I believe there is a trade off between need and desire when it comes to technological developments. At first it may be desire that creates a new technology but after enough use of that technology it turns into a necessity. Without sounding like the prophets-of-doom on youtube, there IS (in my opinion) a huge reliance on technology now that was not present before.
    As for necessity not being the mother of invention… i think there was a threshold in the past where inventing a lightbulb to better humanity WAS a necessity… but its evolved past that now. Now its becomming desire and need to develope new/more powerful technology. And im all for it, i cant wait to see what technology evolves into, i just hope im still around to witness it all.

  3. Amal says:

    I see your point, but the catch for me is defining “necessary”. Without any qualifiers such as “necessary to better humantify” or even “necessary to see in the dark” (as in “a candle or flashlight is necessary to see in the dark”), then the term necessary really boils down to “necessary to survive”… to stay alive.

    When seen in that context, very little is actually “necessary”. Everything else becomes a choice, borne of desire alone.

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