The shock of the old

We often think that the story of technology is one of revolutionary breakthroughs, with clever people discovering the new. So it’s easy to take our eye off the lessons of the old – the objects and actions all around us that last so long because they work so well. Any trip round a museum will bring you face to face with old things that have worked well. Even dinosaurs – that byword for obsolete – did pretty well for hundreds of millions of years.

Author Nicholas Nassim Taleb points out that most new things fail. Objects or actions that survive for generations “must be good at serving some hidden purpose that only time can see… they correspond to something deep in our nature.”*

So what can old things teach us? Might we be in for a shock?

Print the worksheet at the bottom of this page and take it with you round a museum. Or if you can’t get to a museum, use images of old objects and actions – there are some you can download and print here.

Credit: *Antifragile by Nicholas Nassim Taleb – see also The Shock of the Old by David Edgerton.