Dear Jerry and Ranjan,
Thanks for your good post, Jerry. There is, indeed, more than one way
to tell this story. I'm not suggesting that our remote ancestors
designed as we do or thought as we do. I simply propose that they
designed in the specific sense of Herbert Simon's definition, to
design is to "[devise] courses of action aimed at changing existing
situations into preferred ones." However these behaviors came into
being, our purposeful exercise of these behaviors gradually shaped
the cultures and environments that shaped us. The story of how it
happened and the sequence is another issue, one that can be told many
The issue you raise is important, Ranjan. I used the example of homo
habilis in exactly this way. Homo habilis manufactured --
manu-factured, made purposely by hand -- the first stone tools 2.5
million years ago. It is difficult to say when fire was domesticated
purposely -- the dating in South Africa seems to place it between 1.8
and 1 million years ago.
There are several major developmental dates in tool use and the
creation of designed artifacts. I like your distinction between
histories of science -- what we know -- and design -- what we make. A
few years ago, I gave a lecture on the developmental parallels
between the scientific disciplines, and the design fields. My study
is packed down while we renovate our house so I can't find the mind
maps I used for the talk, but I can point to some useful books for
developing a time-line.
Many of these are filled with useful key moments in the pre-history
and history of designed things.
Two books also have an interesting twist -- they tell the story of
what we know by describing the instruments we design to learn about
the world and how they helped us to learn what we know. These are the
books by Baird and Crump.
Baird, Davis. 2004. Thing Knowledge: A Philosophy of Scientific
Instruments. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Beniger, James R. 1986. The Control Revolution. Technological and
Economic Origins of the Information Society. Cambridge,
Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Boorstin, Daniel J. 1985. The Discoverers. New York: Random House.
Christian, David . 2004. Maps of Time. An Introduction to Big
History. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Crump, Thomas, 2002. A Brief History of Science As Seen Through the
Development of Scientific Instruments. London: Caroll and Graf.
de Camp, L. Sprague. 1963. The ancient engineers. New York: Ballantine.
Fuller, Buckminster. 1981. Critical Path. New York: St. Martin's Press.
Gimpel, Jean. 1992 The Medieval Machine. The Industrial Revolution of
the Middle Ages. London: Pimlico.
Gordon, J. E. 1978. Structures or Why Things Dn't Fall Down.
Gordon, J. E. 1986. The New Science of Strong Materials or Why You
Don't Fall Through the Floor. Second Edition. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Ochoa, George and Melinda Corey. 1995. The Timeline Book of Science.
New York: Ballantine.
Pacey, Arnold. 1992. The Maze of Ingenuity. Ideas and Idealism in the
Development of Technology. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
Many books trace the history of specific designed artifacts and
technological artifacts -- Carolyn Marvin's When Old Technologies
Were New, Patrice Flichy's study of the history of modern
telecommunication devices, John Keegan's histories of war, and so on.
If things ever calm down here, I will seek my mind maps and make the
Jerry Diethelm wrote:
>On 5/1/07 2:26 PM, "Ken Friedman" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > Whether or not they designed as we do, I'd argue
>> that our pre-human ancestors designed. I'd hypothesize that the
>> pre-human ability to design gave rise to the human ability to design,
> > shaping us and helping to make us human.
>Projecting backward, I suspect that early awareness was purposeful and
>emotional, the ancestor of what we experience today.
>On this view there were three original intentional processes, but they
>operated as one and had not yet been named. We call them
M P Ranjan wrote:
I had been pondering about the question of the origin of design as a
human activity for many years now and recently when I was suddenly
landed with the task of teaching a course in the history of design to a
group of Product Design students, I used the "human use of fire" as a
significant "design moment" in human evolution, when intentions for
safety and security led to the use of fire in front of camp sites across
South Africa almost two million years ago, a date suggested by Richard
Dawkings. This is a uniquely human activity when fire is deliberately
used, not for cooking or warmth, but for security from predators and I
am not aware of any animal that uses fire for any purpose. It would be
useful to follow this thread and locate the other significant turning
points in the "human use of design" since most of our history is about
the growth of science and not written from a design perspective, which I
believe will be a different one, from that of discovering facts and not
of creating futures with intentional thought and action, which is what I
believe design is.
Prof. Ken Friedman
Institute for Communication, Culture, and Language
Norwegian School of Management
Center for Design Research
Denmark's Design School
+47 46.41.06.76 Tlf NSM
+47 126.96.36.199 Tlf Privat
email: [log in to unmask]