March 17, 2010

Hunkin’s Hypothesis: Technology Is What Makes Us Human

Tim Hunkin: Technology is What Makes Us HumanCartoonist and engineer Tim Hunkin is probably best known for his exhibits at the Science Museum in London and his Under The Pier Show “a mad arcade of home-made slot machines & simulator rides on Southwold Pier, Suffolk”.  His website is a treasure trove of weird and wonderful things.

Tim has an interesting proposition, let’s call it Hunkin’s Hypothesis [1], that technology is what makes us human:

“Technology isn’t just something outside ourselves, it’s an innate part of human nature, like sex, sleeping or eating, and that its been a major driving force in evolution. Tool using, along with language and bipedalism, is essentially what makes us human. The complicated theories used to explain why we first stood up are largely unnecessary. Our hands simply became too useful for holding tools to waste them on walking.”

He bases this idea, on a paper published by Frances Evans [2] about the creative engineering mind. This idea has at least two important implications:

  1. Engineering is a creative and intellectual process that humans do instinctively, not an obsolete and dying skill practiced by dinosaurs
  2. Engineering is an essential part of education, that needs to be taught more in schools and universities. Tim encourages his grand-children to use spot-welders, glue-guns and soldering irons at every opportunity! In UK schools health and safety regulations, plus the fear of being sued often make this tricky.

I’m not sure what to make of Hunkin’s Hypothesis yet, but it’s an intriguing idea that deserves investigation.


  1. Tim Hunkin (2006). Technology is what makes us human. timhunkin.com
  2. Frances Evans (1998). Two legs, thing using and talking: The origins of the creative engineering mind AI & Society, 12 (3), 185-213 DOI: 10.1007/BF01206195
  3. Tim Hunkin – The Seaside Inventor, Southwold Pier, Suffolk

[Picture of Tim Hunkin taken from his talk at Cambridge Science Festival, 2010.]

May 9, 2008

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Googling For

Filed under: lyrical — Duncan Hull @ 8:03 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Irish GoogleTwenty one years ago this month, in May 1987, Irish rockers U2 released their classic Joshua Tree single, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. Those twenty one years have seen incredible technological change: the adoption of desktop computers, mobile phones, the birth of the Web and the widespread use of search engines like Google. So with sincere apologies to Bono, The Edge, Adam and Larry, it’s time we updated the lyrics for the 21st century. So, I give you “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Googling For” (21st anniversary, 2008 webby edition)… (more…)

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