#284 Hey, Rube!
Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist, born in the 1880s, and whose popular drawings
were mostly based on a single premise... making a simple job complicated.
For this, he invented all kinds of implausible machines which gave many a laugh
and provoked many a a thought.
There's an annual contest to invent and actually BUILD a Rube Goldberg style
machine that works.
This year, the winner was the Purdue University Society of professional
engineers, who made a machine that turns on a flashlight in 125 interrelated
The contest requires only twenty steps in a machine designed to accomplish a
simple task, like swatting a fly or lighting a cigar.
Goldberg started his working life around 1900 as a designer of
And he soon realized that technology (remember, this is 1900,) that technology
was making life much more complicated than it needed to be.
This was the message through much of the rest of his life.
We haven't been listening.
Of course, it's not ALL bad.
But check this out: a great many kids today don't know how to tell time on a
common (or as it's now known, "analog" clock.) They need the digital readout.
This is NOT progress.
The word processing and graphic and spread sheet and PowerPoint programs on
your computer can make any of us Walt Disney or Johann Gutenberg.
It can take the inflated prose or crooked scheme and make it look so "official,"
so attractive, so real that we accept it as being important...
This is not progress.
This is not a diatribe against technology... just silly technology.
We owe longer lives for ourselves and our car batteries to devices that turn on
when needed and off when not.
We have whole libraries of information at our fingertips and we don't have to be
And we have cameras on practically every street corner to make sure we behave
ourselves, something which we apparently aren't capable of without supervision.
But we also have incredible complexity. the simple act of leaving the house,
driving, shopping, or getting anything done at work has become so rube
goldbergrafibed that we accept it without question.
Thing of it is, Goldberg was tongue in cheek.
We have, as they say, taken it to the next level.
It still only takes one step to turn on a flashlight.
But you wait. they day will come when that expands to the Goldberg minimum of
20 and the Purdue engineering win at 125.
A note of thanks to those of you who read these blogs via the link from The Kingsland Report.
I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.
(c) 2007 WJR