I love Vine, the six-second revolving video app. I love it because it is useless.
Well, actually it is not the app that I love so much, as I do its potential, and most specifically the potential of the human beings who will come into contact with it and make it something great.
Vine, as it stands right now, seems pretty limited. Six-seconds of low grade video without any options for editing or sound. As such the overwhelming chorus from those who have given it the once-over is, “what’s the point in that? What’s it good for?”
History is full of stories of innovations that enjoyed little warmth when they first entered the world. The ubiquitous Post-It note from 3M was a product failure; a glue that wouldn’t stick properly. No-one wanted a fax machine or later, an email address, since, at the time of the release of both of these technologies, there was no-one else to talk to. Television was dismissed as a vast wasteland; the Beatles were turned down by Decca records, since in their minds in 1960, guitar music was on the way out. Even Bill Gates had a hard time envisioning why anyone would want more than 640K of RAM. I think my espresso machine has more than that.
For every person who dismisses an innovation, there is another, who asks, “what if?” and a lot of these people end up on TED Talks, sharing their passion and their creativity, energetically aware that a Wiki approach to life – openness and synergy, yields more than does keeping ones cards close to the chest.
Synergy is a hugely powerful driving force.
Take, for example, the 3D printer. In the early months of its public existence it was able to print out doorstops and small toys, to which the chorus of naysayers cried, “Marvellous! a 21st century ashtray made out of 21st century clay.”
But then, something interesting happened. Someone asked, “what if we were to use this device to create medical implants?” And then out came bionic jawbones, and breathing stents for premature babies. Then someone else asked, “what if we could create food in transportable formats to feed the 2/3 of the world who can’t find enough to eat?” And out came pizzas, made from natural protein sources like insects and algae (OK, not so palatable for first-world tastes, but transportable and non perishable nonetheless).
There is an engineer/artist by the name of Theo Jansen who has created a new form of “life” out of straw and water bottles – creatures who walk along the beach, store wind energy for later use, and learn how to stay alive all on their own. His video is both fascinating and chilling. These creatures have an organic reality and a poetic beauty all at once.
And again, the question arises, “what are they good for?” And again, someone, somewhere will see these beasts, and will be able to see a way by which they can be used – for farming or water retrieval in desolately poor areas, perhaps, or for minesweeping, or any one of a thousand yet-to-be conceived uses.
It is is a common turn of phrase for an adult to ask a teenager or child, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” which I think is a very unfair burden to place on a young mind. The closest I have ever come is to ask a young person “what do you want to be first?” since I believe that every person has the potential and the right to reinvent themselves as often as it suits.
Yes, the world will always need plumbers and doctors, (not so much lawyers or hedge fund managers), but many of the jobs of a decade from now have yet to be invented, and they will likely be invented by these kids themselves.
So that is why I like Vine. It is, at this moment, apparently useless. As useless as an unused camera, pen or line of code. All it is waiting for is the spark of someone else’s genius to touch it, and make it become something amazing. Just like Twitter before it, or the Arpanet before that. And if Vine does indeed fizzle, the way the Newton and the the Laserdisc fizzled, the energy of its short-lived existenced will fuel the next new thing. Someone, somewhere will have the vision and curiosity to ask, “what if we were to do this?” And the wonder of humankind’s collective brilliance will shine anew.