On the Hierarchy of Needs and Needless Things

Yesterday The Curtain Raiser has reminded that a well-versed blogger should celebrate the first blogging anniversary.

I hit the Publish button first on March 2012, 24, so I should consider writing something pivotal in three days.

But I am not there yet, rather the opposite. Having just announced on Twitter and Google+ that my posts might gravitate around cybersecurity and hacking infrastructure … I need to digress before I even get started(*), that is: I need to post something that deserves being tagged with the label ‘weird’.

(*)Meta-digression: This is semi-conscious plagiarism or an homage to the intro paragraph of Mark Sackler’s post – accidentally that post was about the pleasures of analyzing searches. Yet, this post of mine is NOT about search term poetry.

It is about the meaning of life – in order to provide you with more spiritual content after some of my brave readers have waded through two previous posts on gyroscopes, Coriolis force and toilet flushes. Today the elkement blog was already hit by the search term:

to flush the toilet

Before my official bloggiversary, I should seriously ponder about why I am blogging at all. My brain is stuffed with hacked smart meters and forces acting on kitchen sinks, so I cannot come up with an insightful explanation of my own.

Thus I am really happy that somebody else has put the answer into a drawing already – note the nice icon at the top of the pyramid:

[Comment from the future – 2019: This has aged well. The link is broken, and I cannot recall what it was about exactly. I think something about WLAN being at the top of needs. It was a flickr link I captioned with: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, & the Social Media that Fulfill ‘Em. Shared on Flickr by Erica Glasier (Licensed under CC). But funny Maslow hierarchies have become a genre of memes – so leave this blog and google!]

Adding some more serious comment: The hierarchy of icons depicted resembles my personal ranking of social media sites, with the notable exception of Google+ missing.

Browsing and skimming websites and social media has re-wired my brain that is now subject to all kinds of strange associations and connections, similar to random hyperlinks. Search terms do inspire me, too. The second best search term of today was

patent perpetuum mobile

Musing about the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything – and about impossible machines –  I cannot help but remember a particular, fascinating machine that has no purpose whatsoever. A story that needs to be shared with my global audience.

I had seen this machine live a few years ago.  The Austrian creator / artist – Franz Gsellmann was a farmer who had been fascinated by machinery ever since. Having read a report on the Atomium presented at the World Exhibition 1958 he started crafting a this machine – basically anything you can find in a typical home and that can be made moving, sparkling or tinkling when connected to electrical power.

Weltmaschine - Franz Gsellmann

Here is the machine in action – Gsellmann called it the “Weltmaschine”, World’s Machine (?). I am not not sure if there really is a translation that has the same connotations.

There is no version with English subtitles so you miss the explanations on the origins of all the parts integrated into this machine. But I think images speak for themselves. The creator tinkered with the machine for 23 years.

Of course the title was an allusion to Needless Things by Stephen King.

15 Comments Add yours

  1. I look forward to it with eager anticipation! The original Hitchhiker (70s BBC) is the only one – classic – never to be equaled. We made the mistake of going to see the Hitchhiker move several years ago – what a disappointment! D

    1. elkement says:

      Couldn’t agree more – the movie was disappointing. Probably I made it worse by reading the 5 books in a trilogy of 4 (or was it the other way round?) again at the time the movie had been released.

  2. “official bloggiversary?” I hadn’t thought about it, but I’m not far behind you. I’ll be watching to see that you come up with something momentus and profound. Not that there’s any pressure on you, now. :-)

    1. elkement says:

      It seems I have now realized false expectations ;-) Not sure if I will be able to rise to the challenge, as I have only some vague ideas yet what to write! Thanks for stepping by!

  3. M. Hatzel says:

    Interesting, and so was that link to “rewired brain,” although I wonder what qualifies Mark Zuckerberg to respond on privacy… I dispute that our norms are changing (or maybe I’m nostalgic). Interested to read on your next posts, too.

    1. elkement says:

      Thanks – your posts and comments on (web) identity and language have given me food for thought!
      Re the article: Last year I have been impressed by the book mentioned at the beginning – The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr. This was the trigger for taking some of my old websites nearly offline for about three months last year.

      1. M. Hatzel says:

        You keep leading me into new (and sometimes renewed) interests and areas of reading. I’m not sure how to respond to the internet /brain debate, but it is this new belief that children can’t learn in traditional ways that has triggered visual-based approaches to learning in the public schools here in Canada (where my children get more screen time than if they spent the day at home). At the same time, the position formerly called the ‘director of Education’ in local school divisions is now “CEO” of Education…. (also, children are now education consummers / clients). I’m not sure where the difference is, with the internet generation, or within the way the older people see the world and how they themselves want to interact within it.

  4. Fantastic machine–although I acknowledge with more than a little sadness that many of our current geniuses are spirited away from the mechanical world and into places like Google and Microsoft where much of their labours lie hidden. By the way, I, for one, won’t mind your upcoming forays into the world of cyber-security.

    1. elkement says:

      You are right – I am intrigued by IT / cyber / quantum / nano … but I believe classical mechanics (and also thermodynamics for that matter) are underrated. I have stumbled upon this interesting science / art site recently that focusses on “real stuff”: http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2013/03/seven-incredible-marble-machines-by-paul-grundbacher/
      Re cyber-security: I will not be able to avoid posting about this anyway ;-) – but good to know it might be interesting to somebody else!

      1. Quite a few of the technological problems we still face will require mechanical solutions…solutions that will be slow to come because the focus right now seems to be about sensing and control and not really on the actuators and other parts of the solution chain.

        1. elkement says:

          I agree – but sometimes I feel we need even more ‘virtual’ technology to fix the issues that have been created by other virtual technology. As you mentioned Microsoft and Google in your first comment: Do you remember the joke / cartoon “What if Microsoft would build cars?” (You would have to just have to restart them to solve any issues….). From issues people I know had with modern cars (… “engine damage” was actually software issue and resolved by upgrading firmware … ) it seems this has come true in a sense.

          1. So true! But now that we have moved to a virtual environment I feel that we’ve solved few of the underlying issues with software systems and have just expanded the server backbone to compensate for less-than-optimal software. Database running slow? Correct solution–look at the data model and make corrections or at least index the key parts. Actual solution: throw three more servers at it; the extra processing power compensates for the lousy design :>) Same in mechanical systems–instead of fixing the underlying design, throw more components or mechanical power in the system and hope for the best :>)

            1. elkement says:

              Absolutely, in contrast to good engineering practices based on keeping stuff as simple as possible.
              Accidentlly I found this quote by Freeman Dyson (searching for a statement on good engineering) “A good scientist is a person with original ideas. A good engineer is a person who makes a design that works with as few original ideas as possible.”

  5. The Meaning of Life? Depending on your mood … 42 (with thanks to Douglas Adams … by the way, did you know that MATH (13+1+20+8) = 42) … or 0 (with thanks to Richard Dawkins). D

    1. elkement says:

      Thanks for the great comment, Dave!! I have been a Douglas Adams family ever since watched all episodes of the legendary 1970s BBC TV series of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (all episodes at once, together with fellow nerds at the university), but I did not know this interesting interpretation of 42! You are giving me ideas for my real bloggiversary post – which will be the 63rd, not a nice number per se. But I believe I will be able to now to find a twisted explanation of the special meaning of 63 as well!

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