Thursday, July 26, 2007

The following is from Azby Brown, Director of the KIT Future Design Institute in Japan and is copied from the introduction of Volume 2 of the Future Design Journal. If you want to know more about Azby Brown, search for him as an author on

Our humanity is closely held in our hands. In their functional detail, the degree to which they are cognitively integrated with our brains, and the cultural significance which has accrued to them over millennia of evolution, our hands distinguish us from other animals. They allow us a peculiarly intense means of exploring our world and lend us identity. They are communicative and manipulative, demonstrative and inquisitive, and in addition to giving us knowledge about the external world, they enhance our knowledge of ourselves. Particularly, they are a means of action.

Take the simple act of peeling an apple as an example: our hands sense the weight of the apple, its temperature, wetness, smoothness. They sense the resistance of the apple to the blade, and must rotate the apple as it is cut, requiring fine coordination of the fingers of each hand, the wrists, and the forearm. Because the actual point of contact between the blade and the apple is likely concealed under the peel being removed, the most immediate information about the progress and accuracy of the cut are received through tactile sensations, as friction and the textured rhythm transmitted through the blade to the handle of the knife and thence to our fingertips and palm. We detect moisture, and we obtain a very clear sense of the complex curvature of even the obscured areas of the apple's surface. Our hands are perfectly designed to obtain a deluge of useful information from something like an apple, and to manipulate it skillfully; when performing this kind of action our hands speak to us very clearly and unambiguously.

Until the dawn of the industrial era, our hands were in constant contact with either natural objects with which the human hand had co-evolved and so were sensorially suited --plants, stones, other animals -- or items made from natural materials and which still possessed many natural characteristics.

People the world over know the significance of the hands in learning and the development of the world's culture. It is tribute to the stupidity of education that we seem to do nothing about it. In pure foolishness we continue to ignore our primary means of engaging the hearts of our children in learning.

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