TED Conversations

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 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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