Eric Mueller

Video Delivery Lead, TED.com

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What will happen to chopsticks in 1,000 years?

We're all aware that cultures are clashing and mixing faster and faster everyday thanks to new tech like the internet and old tech like migration.

Currently we celebrate cultures by engaging with them at restaurants, festivals and through travel. We are all entertained by the differences; we use chopsticks while eating asian foods, eat our "plates" when eating Ethiopian food, we are brought on stage during a hawaiian luau against our wishes but then in the end have a good time :) (etc, etc)

However, when mixing you eventually come to a blended phase where the soup is one general color. (keeping with the food theme I got goin on…it's almost lunch time)

Do you think that at some point in humanity's future we will put aside cultures and traditions and become one society - a new together culture? If so, is this a good thing?

Is it possible that future generations will only find out today's diverse cultures by asking their AIs?

Will chopsticks or forks still be around in 1,000 years?
10,000 years?

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    Mar 18 2011: Yes, they will be around, but we won't
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    Mar 13 2011: .
    My distopian fantasy:

    In the year 3011, we will have shrunk the human body, removed its limbs, and made it more efficient. Some slimy, chlorophillic greenish goo will feeds us, via tubes that plug in directly into our stomach/battery.

    The natives from Northwest Mars will certainly have rendez-vous with the tribals from the South on a regular basis, and share copious amounts of green goo, mixed, perhaps with some ethanol to get drunk.

    Chopsticks, forks and knives will occassionally be downloaded and used in 3D at "Remember Our Funny Past On Earth" historic disguise parties.
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      Mar 13 2011: One man's dystopia ...
    • Mar 13 2011: @Laurens, you made me smile, but Mars doesn't have a magnetic pole so how would you know the north from the south? and who would decide which pole was North and which was south? :)
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      Mar 13 2011: I try not to be judgmental about trivial things, but the idea of someone stabbing a morsel of Hamachi with a fork makes me shudder...I hope this is not the future, I think I would rather our decedents did not eat sushi.But it is ultimately their decision.
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      Mar 11 2011: Take me for example, I'm half German (3rd generation american) and Spanish (1st generation american).
      I'm way more in tune with my Spanish heritage than my German...in fact, I know no more about German culture and traditions than any schoolkid out there.

      I dont engage with any German festivals, parades or any other cultural activities, and I know I'm not the only German decedent to do so. So then is culture being lost?

      I can almost be certain that my children will know very little about their Spanish heritage and even much less about their German heritage. Their children will probably know even less, and this will only continue to degrade as the generations pass.

      Here in NYC we have the famous Culture Day Parades - like the Puerto Rican Parade. Will this still be happening 3 generations down the line as bloodlines mix? 10 generations?

      As we become a global society it's only natural for culture and traditions to fall to the side, but will they disappear eventually from everyday life? Things you only watch history videos about?

      I'm honestly starting to think it's inevitable on a long enough timeline.
      • Mar 13 2011: I don't know about that. Even though bloodlines are mixing more than ever before, there is also a greater effort worldwide to preserve culture.

        Researchers, chefs, and artists are exploring cultures outside of their own, preserving them, and using them as inspiration for the work they do at home. Though there may be some adaptation, I doubt that all culture and tradition will disappear from everyday life.

        If anything, globalization has provided the opportunity for individuals to find and pursue cultures/ideas they are passionate about, even those outside the culture in which the individual was raised.
      • Mar 13 2011: I live neat London, so like yourself in NYC I have this modern world view that cultures and ethnicities are all mixing together like never before.

        It is easy to feel this way when living in international melting pots like London or NYC. However, in my brief travels it has dawned on me that significant ethnic diversity in a geographical location is the exception rather than the rule.

        Added to this is the natural propensity for humans to seek out those who look and think like themselves. Even in London, ethnic, cultural and religious groups tend to huddle together, with very few forums for cultural exchange other than school and the work place.

        It appears that men and women have a tenancy to pair up with those of the same ethnicity to produce children. (according to my anecdotal experience and speculation).

        Despite the amazing uniting and mixing power of the internet, it is easy to forget how many people in the world have limited or no access to this privilege.

        Also, Eric, you say you are not aware of your German heritage, but I imagine you are very aware of your American heritage? And I imagine that German children in Germany are aware of their German culture. Just a thought :)

        I myself hope to buck the trend as I am white-British but engaged to my Filipino girlfriend of 4 years, and plan to make some strong hybrid babies :D
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    Mar 18 2011: Good question. I think so, because there will always be humans who see the benefits of eating at a slower pace and enjoying their food. At least I would like to think so. It is tough to eat ice cream with them however. I use them to stir my coffee in my french press as well as for a good portion of my eats. be well!
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    Mar 16 2011: I believe that the use of chopstics would not go away, at least for people who live in North-east countries, such as Japan, Korea, China. Taiwan, and Honking, etc. For example, I have to use chopstics to pick up foods that are very thin or small.

    By the way, using chopstics is a good example of developing fine motor skills because it requies to use our all fingers. Some people even try to educate their children to improve fine motor skill to to promote mathematical skill and using chopstics is being used for that purpose also. Whether that is a proven fact or not, I believe that using chopstics is part of my habit. I believe that most people who are raised in the Northeast countries feel the similar way. So, I strongly believe that abandoning the practice to use chopstics would not happen at least quite a while.
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    Mar 13 2011: I don`t know if using chopsticks can really be considered a blending of cultures. Just a blending of utensils. Sure, American exposure to Japan/China/Korea has encouraged many to try their cuisine and, ultimately, learn new ways to eat, but I don't think it's a sign of deep cultural exchange. The values, customs, and beliefs that make people think and behave differently are far more integral to culture than chopsticks, anime, and sake. Will chopsticks be around in 1000 years? Probably, because they are great tools for eating.
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    Mar 13 2011: The right or wrong of these things is for the future generations to decide, not us. We will be long gone(unless Aubrey de Grey turns out not to be a crackpot) and our ideas may seem barbaric or just silly to our progeny.
    This idea that we must not only record every culture but also keep it alive by living it,is just crazy.Should some people be made to speak Sumerian in an effort to revive early Mesopotamian culture?
    I LOVE chopsticks , I have a whole drawer devoted to them in my kitchen.Will they still be used in 1000 years?Will people have nuclear powered chopsticks? I do not know, but we should not mourn the idea that the answer might be no.
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    Mar 11 2011: I think, that if humanity wants to be around in the long term, we will have to become one society and pull all into the same direction. Although, that doesn't mean we have to get rid of chop sticks ;-)
    Eventually, cultures will blend into one, with, maybe some isolated pockets maintaining local cultures. I don't think that's something bad. It's like with natural selection. That, which is useful in one way or the other to society will survive, the rest will be gone.
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    Mar 11 2011: My prediction: spork proliferation.

    Chopsticks will still be around 1,000 years from now in the same way that hammers, spears, and other primitive tools are still around in modernized incarnations. However, there are other eating tools that are probably more adaptive, versatile, and user-friendly than chopsticks. Perhaps the adoption of that new tool will grow over time.. but only if there is a reason for it to grow (new tool is cheaper to make, new tool becoming a fad, scarcity in the production process of chopsticks..etc)