After the toy-hacking workshop I realised how awful I am at soldering. Not that I expected to be good, I haven't done it since I was 12, but I want to be good at soldering, and I'm not entirely sure why. Obviously it's partly because I like all that MAKE magazine stuff and I feel like if I'm good at soldering those people will like me. And it's equally obviously partly mid-life crisis re-connect with my Dad stuff. (He's an engineer.)
But I think it's something else too.
I suspect it's my unconscious telling me that I'm not equipped for the world we're going to be living in. My core skill is probably using PowerPoint to persuade people and businesses to do their advertising slightly differently. That's an increasingly abstract and useless thing. Because, however the future turns out it seems like a knowledge of the thinginess of things is going to be important.
We might be living in an age of thingy abundance with 3D printers, self-replicating spimes, fablabs on every corner and some kind of ebay/etsy service offering short-run custom manufacturing with versatile African factories. We'll make all our own things, and remake them a little later into a lamp. Understanding the logic, feel and physics of things will be as useful and rewarding as cooking.
Or we might be living in an age of thing scarcity where the carbon-cost of producing new objects is too high to feasible most of the time. You won't get a new radio / washing machine / pair of socks when you want one, you'll have to repair the one you have. (Anne and I always talk of this as the 'retreat to high ground' scenario.) Obviously soldering etc will be handy then too.
And, as ever, the future will probably be some combination of both those scenarios, plus some other scarily unpredictable things.
But that's probably why we're also feeling the urge to grow vegetables on our little balcony, and the need to be able to sew, cook, put shelves up, change a tyre, stuff we've never really thought about before. It's not just a disconnection from craft-skills, and a recognition that tinkering with things is both satisfying and effective, it's an evolutionary response. It's my brain telling me it doesn't know the right things. And my DNA telling me I don't know the right things to pass on to Arthur.
(video is an example of poor soldering skills, it's a kit from Maplin that's supposed to be a scrolling message. I screwed up somewhere and it's random scrolling patterns instead, which are quite pretty.)