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Wear Evolving Tools

Tools that, as they wear, become other tools.
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(+12, -2)
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"An escalator can never break. It can only become stairs. You would never see an 'Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order' sign, just 'Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience.'"-Mitch Hedberg

There are simple examples of what might be called "wear-evolving tools" everywhere. A lot of the tools one encounters in the world amount to combinations of other tools. As use takes its toll on a tool, the underlying tools which compose the original emerge. However, the simple tools that emerge can rarely compete with equivalent, new tools designed from the start with a specific purpose. A broken-down car might be considered, at best, a piece of furniture. At the very least it is an ungainly paperweight. Mitch Hedberg's escalator- to-staircase idea is perhaps one of the most elegant examples.

What if designers accounted for the wear of a tool in its initial design, so that as it became ineffective when used for its original purpose, it became more valuable as some other kind of tool? Often, for safety reasons, they do. The autogyro, for instance, is a powered helicopter-like craft. Should its engine fail, it becomes a maneuverable glider.

I think that the effect of use and the effect of the environment on most objects can be fairly accurately predicted. I have a hunch that if enough effort were put into the design of something, it would be possible to manufacture things which, instead of becoming totally useless with age, simply become something different.

Imagine engines with only a few "high- level" parts. As these parts wear, they can be used to replace smaller parts in the same engine. The engine could be run indefinitely as long as the highest-level components are replaced as they are worn and shift function.

wooby, May 17 2005

The Practice Effect http://www.sfreview...actice%20Effect.htm
A completely unrelated story that the name of this idea brought to mind. I liked the book somewhat more than the reviewer.
[ato_de, May 22 2005]


       Post functional utility is in the eye of the beholder.   

       Or the genius who can turn a broken TV into a fly zapper.
daseva, May 17 2005

       I dropped my towel in the hottub last night, and scolded myself for ruining the towel. Moments later, my neck was aching, and I used the towel as cushion on the edge of the tub. It evolved.   

       A wet towel is still a good hot tub cushion.   

       This is, I still believe, only applicable as a paradigm, but it's a great fucking paradigm.
daseva, May 20 2005

       Everything [daseva] said. It would be lovely to think that designers could plan a product's lifetime to this level of detail, but in reality users find first uses for products that the designers never imagined, let alone second uses.   

       It's a great concept, though. A deeply philosophical bun.
moomintroll, May 20 2005

       This is similar to Albert Speer's Theory of Ruin Value.
ldischler, May 20 2005

       Hmmm. I think most power-tools have only the potental of evolving into extremely clunky versions of their mechanical counterparts.   

       Most electronics, however, evolve into the same thing (with varying degrees of success): a doorstop.
st3f, May 20 2005

JesusHChrist, May 21 2005

       I think that the compromises required to make major components wear into minor components would make them less efficient at their initial job.
david_scothern, May 21 2005

       a metaphor for the aging process of humans, need one say more?   

       well this is the h'bakery, so it goes without saying that ones need say more, regardless of saying whether it goes without saying or say, saying nothing at all.
dentworth, May 22 2005

       yeah, what she said.
ato_de, May 22 2005

       My kitchen sink has evolved into a metronome.   

       My cooker has evolved into an anolgue synth, with the rear-left hob control evolving into the emphasis control.   

       My loud hard-drive has evolved into a pitch-reference guitar tuner with a one-note range.
spiritualized, May 22 2005

       I'd like to see a geodesic dome composed entirely of used cars.
reensure, May 22 2005

       a railroad tie?
dentworth, May 22 2005

       Good idea, [wooby]. Why not create nanobots that can be programmed to form virtually any tool? Then when one wears down, you just get out the remote controlled nano programmer device, and tell them to reorganize themselves into something else.
squogglewonker, May 22 2005


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