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Unintended Consequences

04 December 201205:32PM

Fridges are pretty cool.


But seriously.

There's this idea that the consequences of technology aren't always predictable. I think it was in a Cory Doctorow book or a Richard Stallman essay or something to that effect, which pointed out that one of the most significant and overlooked effects of cars existing is that everyone carries ID at all times, which blah blah blah police state.

Also possibly several miles beyond that.

It makes sense. A car is an order of magnitude faster, can carry an order of magnitude more, and can go an order of magnitude further than an unaided person (or a horse, for that matter), and requires no effort on the part of the human to boot. Why wouldn't you want one? So of course, everyone gets one, and suddenly they realise that that's exactly what makes them dangerous, and maybe we should have some kind of training for this, and you have to carry your proof-of-training with you when you drive and then people drive more and more and the city develops and suddenly everyone's carrying photographic ID with them everywhere. In hindsight it seems inevitable, but nobody could possibly have predicted it.

(I'm not actually sure if there's a legitimate philosophical name for this phenomenon. If you know, tell me, k? it's way too late to be wikipedia-ing at this hour.)

So I reckon fridges, specifically fridge magnets, and even more specifically sticking things to your fridge with magnets, is another example of this. Every house you go in to, there will be things stuck on the fridge. Timetables, shopping lists, photos... whatever. Except, unlike driver's licenses, there's no central authority telling people that they should keep important stuff on the fridge. It's emerged organically, and pretty much universally. And while it does make sense, since fridges are made out of metal and the kitchen tends to be a high-traffic, high-visibility area and thus a natural place for putting things which need to be seen, it'd be really difficult to predict that ever happening before it did.

And maybe someday that will have its own knock-on effects. Maybe plastic fridges would be more energy efficient and easier to move, but then where would we stick the shopping list?

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