“For many people around the world, “first life” reality has few charms, and, even for those more fortunate, active participation in a virtual world is more intellectually stimulating than the life of a couch potato slumped in idle thrall to Big Brother.”—Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?: The Net’s Impact on Our Minds and Future, Richard Dawkins
“There’s an old story about the long reach of early choices that is basically true: Ordinary Roman carts were constructed to match the width of imperial Roman war chariots because it was easier to follow the ruts in the road left by the war chariots. The chariots were sized to accommodate the width of two large warhorses, which translates into our English measurement of 4’ 8.5”. Roads throughout the vast Roman Empire were built to this specification. When the legions of Rome marched into Britain, they constructed long-distance imperial roads 4’ 8.5” wide. When the English started building tramways, they used the same width so the same horse carriages could be used. And when they started building railways with horseless carriages, naturally the rails were 4’ 8.5” wide. Imported laborers from the British Isles built the first railways in the Americas using the same tools and jigs they were used to. Fast-forward to the U.S. space shuttle, which is built in parts around the country and assembled in Florida. Because the two large solid-fuel rocket engines on the side of the launch shuttle were sent by railroad from Utah, and that line traversed a tunnel not much wider than the standard track, the rockets themselves could not be much wider in diameter than 4’ 8.5”. As one wag concluded: “So, a major design feature of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of two horses’ arse.”—What Technology Wants, Kevin Kelly
“Because an organization’s structure and how its groups work together may have been established to facilitate the design of its dominant product, the direction of causality may ultimately reverse itself: The organization’s structure and the way its groups learn to work together can then affect the way it can and cannot design new products.”—The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, Clayton M. Christensen
Commonplace books (or commonplaces) were a way to compile knowledge, usually by writing information into books. They became significant in Early Modern Europe.
Such books were essentially scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: medical recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas. Commonplaces were used by readers, writers, students, and humanists as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts they had learned. Each commonplace book was unique to its creator’s particular interests.