Invisible Tools: Not Machines

Are you a tool?

Of course not.  You’re a living being.

It used to be that your average egghead thought only humans could use tools.

Then Jane Goodall watched chimps use tools to find food.

So then they thought only humans could teach other humans how to use tools.

And Jane watched chimps teach their babies how to use tools.

Since those eye-opening moments in science, the eggheads have learned that a LOT of animals use tools, and a lot of those teach others how to use them.

I keep harping on the eggheads because anyone who has kept animals long enough may have observed the same behaviors.  You can probably even find a video of a dog learning from a bird or a cat.  The idea that humans are super special is history.

In general, a tool is something that helps living beings get what we want.  We typically think of tools as being our homes, phones, hammers and nails.  Tools that have a physical character have a special name, machines.

But a tool doesn’t have to be made out of anything.  A tool does not have to exist in any form except as an idea and energy.  And that’s what we’re talking about today.

Language is a tool.  If you write it down using an alphabet it takes on a physical aspect, and it becomes a machine with a special name, writing.

This series on invisible tools is going to touch on behaviors we use to make our lives easier, helping us to get what we want.  There are lots of behaviors we take for granted that we use as tools, but never think of them as such.

The reason it becomes important to think about “tools” in general, whether they are invisible behaviors or manifest machines, is that we can appreciate them more and realize that we should be using them.

Many times I have seen someone use a hammer incorrectly.  It’s bad for the hammer, it makes that person’s job harder, but worst of all, it’s dangerous to that person and anyone standing nearby.  Some people don’t even think of using the right tool for the job.  They may not even know that it’s a tool.

So, here’s cheers for tools.  Let’s appreciate them, and make our lives better.

 

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