Do cars have to look like cars? To can openers necessarily resemble can openers? I’ve been pondering this question recently.
Humans, for at least the last 30,000 years or so, have not changed in any meaningful evolutionary sense. There has been plenty of micro-evolution these last 300 centuries, but that has mostly consisted of shuffling around and expressing genes we already had in our DNA.
If you were to place some humans into an alternate Earth-like environment — same brains and bodies, same gravity, nutrients and weather conditions — and let them culturally evolve over several hundred centuries, would they end up re-creating essentially the same technological artifacts?
Is there something inherent in the requirements for an automobile that forces it to converge on a narrow range of designs? And what about trains and airplanes, motion pictures, clothing, coat hangers, room furniture, refrigerators?
In science fiction stories we can see many alternatives to the designs converged upon by modern society. And yet those alternatives reflect only their authors’ imaginings, not the actual artifacts of any known civilization.
There are so many pragmatic and utilitarian constraints on human made objects that I wonder — was the design of the automobile, in our current state of technological development, inevitable? Are all versions of sound recording destined to progress from wax cylinder to vinyl record to CD to bits in the Cloud, if civilization were to rewind and replay again?