Textiles as Tech, Science, Math, Culture… or Civilization

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“The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they’re indistinguishable from it.” That quote from computer scientist Mark Weiser is from a 1991 paper where he outlined the vision of ubiquitous computing; in it, he also referenced “seamlessness”… We just can’t get away from textile metaphors: we catch airline “shuttles”, we “weave” through traffic, we follow comment “threads” — the metaphors are as ubiquitous and abundant and threaded throughout our lives as the textiles (and computing) all around us.

The discussion both dives deep and lightly dips into a wide range of topics: fabrics, from the genetics of cotton to the supply chain of silk (including pre-Industrial Revolution factories, early payment and incentive alignment, “maestre” and notions of expertise); knowledge, from the storage and transmission of it to sharing tacit and explicit code (including manuals, notation, measures); and math as the science of patterns, origins of mathematics (including early education and getting paid for it). The touch on the NASA space program, knitting and AI, and the environmental impact of dyes.


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