19 April 2009

If I had a hammer

Technology has come to be more diverse than the biosphere. [sic] In 1867, Karl Marx observed that there were 500 types of hammer made in Birmingham, England. In 1988, Donald Norman, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, San Diego, suggested that the average American encounters 20,000 different kinds of artifacts in everyday life, which would be more than the number of animals and plants that we can distinguish. And right now, there are about 1.5 million identified species on Earth — impressive, but nothing compared to the more than 7 million United States patents.
-- from Natural Happiness by Paul Bloom.

This a challenging start to an interesting article.  It's not clear, though, that diversity in the sense used here is a helpful way to compare things.  More useful, perhaps, to compare complexity.  What man made tool compares with a living cell?

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