Should students devote time to studying ‘useless’ subjects? The debate has been running for (at least) 127 years. The arguments often boil down to questions such as: ‘Maybe something that seems useless now, could be useful in the future?’ or ‘Who’s in a position to say what’s useless anyway?’ For an early example, see the […]
What would be the point of designing and developing “Magic Machines” in the form of a “Poo Detector” … Or an “Eyes and Ears” gizmo? … One reason would be to draw attention to the effects of so-called ‘Solutionism’ – prevalent in today’s world where technological ‘solutions’ (esp. gadgets) are constantly presented to solve problems […]
It was somewhere around the 4th century BC that Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zhou raised the idea of ‘The Usefulness of Uselessness’. Master Zhuang pointed out that objects (or information) which appear at first sight to be quite useless, can, on further investigation (and/or at a later date, and/or at another place) sometimes turn out to […]
This machine symbolizes Monday mornings. This machine also symbolizes almost anything else. This machine fails to symbolize almost nothing. Claude Shannon, who figured out some things about information, designed the machine, years ago.
Maria Popover’s essay “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge” (in her blog Brain Pickings) uses the usefulness of Abraham Flexner’s 1939 essay “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge” (in Harper’s magazine) as a way to introduce or re-introduce you to all sorts of ideas about the uselessness and usefulness of ideas.
“Patrons of a local restaurant often do not wish to enter the kitchen.” Or, put another way – “There are many situations in which individuals have a choice of whether or not to observe the eventual outcome. In these instances, individuals often prefer to avoid observing the outcome.” These observations form the bedrock for investigations […]