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Yep, the question of thingy abundance or thing scarcity is an important one. I'm leaning towards scarcity, but that doesn't mean that we won't find great uses for new production methods.

There's an element of programming in there too - making virtual things, especially tools. Writing as well. Tom Infovore had a really good post about this (http://infovore.org/archives/2007/12/20/alan-kays-definition-of-literacy/#commentlist) which references a thought of Alan Kay's; what we're really talking about in a sense is literacy. If you can't make, or at least understand what you'd need to do to make, something, you don't understand it.

That doesn't mean that everyone has to write operating systems and build hifis, but I reckon it doesn't hurt to have put together a crystal radio kit, or a few little programs, or to be able to darn socks. They all feel like the same thing to me, more or less.

I don't necessarily think that Kay was equating "understand" with "literate". Perhaps the term "conversant" is better; you can understand theory, but to be conversant in a skill, you need to be able to read and write (or whatever the equiavlents for the thing in question are).

"Fluency" is another good metaphor. Reading a language is a remarkable skill to have; being able to converse with a native is more remarkable, that's all.

If it works, then your soldering skills aren't "that" bad.

If you haven't already, invest in a really good soldering iron. Personally, I prefer the Weller soldering stations. The temperature stays consistent and it's possible to get really small tips.

I've managed to use mine to make even near-surface mount stuff ala Retrozone's Nintendo USB controller conversion.

I have had the same humbling thought many times: all I can do is talk and use powerpoint to make people do things to their brands ... what the hell are they going to write on my gravestone?

I realized the necessity of being able to actually do things when I was doing my military service. I ended up in a group of 30 guys, with me being the only one who had studied and sometimes read a book. I realized each of them had very specific skills that I couldn't even begin to understand, and that each "talent" I thought I had was absolutely absurd, nonsensical and utterly useless to them.

The thought hit me that when, as P.G. Wodehouse puts it, "the revolution breaks out, and the blood of the oppressors will stream down the lanes of London", I would be the first one they would turn to.

Since then I've been frantically learning how to paint, carpent, build, saw, dig, etc etc in my house. Anything to not ever having to feel that useless anymore.

Funny, I was chatting to my nine year old Max about making some electronic stuff - he's doing a project at school that involves taking a torch apart, rebuilding it and then writing an explanation on how the thing works.

We walk past maplins on the way to school, and we made a plan to go there asap to get tooled up.

I think we (digital types) just all want to work with our hands... There's a certain honesty in it...

I think that there is something that is telling us to get ready for change. Not that the world isn't changing already, but we (the 'we' being the 'developed western world' type of people) have been pretty well hidden / protected from the extent of these changes. It happens on edges where it then gets processed and packaged and homogenised into safely consumable packages.

Yet with the change of an increasingly connected world as well as large mediated, yet scientifically backed events happening (reports on Climate Change, collapse of ice shelfs, extreme weather that we are getting to experience via the media) we are realising that we need some other skills.

I keep joking with my Dad that my years at Horse Rangers will at least do me in good stead when the Oil runs out, as long as I can find a horse.

This is why the OLPC is good whilst the Classmate (or other such devices running Windows) are not so good, OLPC is designed for you to get into writing stuff to do what you want to do.

Arduino, the Make(r)/Craft(er) movement are all important for re-aligning us with change, getting us back in control.

I think we were starting on this path a while back, Seattle, the No Logo movement etc. Then 9/11 happened and we possibly got sidetracked.

Humm, still I need to practice with my soldering iron. Maybe we need a maker camp at geekGreen?

Great post - I have been thinking the same thing for ages (and got the Making Things Talk book for Christmas). Sometimes I wish I was a carpenter so I could make nice furniture and yoga props and also be able to explain to my mum (and myself) what I do for a living.

I too have had similar feelings about the skills I'm going to be able to pass on to my kids. I can repair a puncture though! That's about it.

However, when I'm feeling depressed about my lack of skills in this area I try and look at it from another point of view.

The kind of enormous change we're talking about here will also require thinkers - ideas. Although I do believe things might get pretty rough and necessity will replace aspiration in many cases, I do not believe people will instantly forget about brands. They'll still want brand experiences and they still identify themselves with interesting concepts. How, for example could you make it cool to repair your television or sofa? Might it become more of a statement not to buy something in the first place and how might we brand this?

Russell, you've blogged and talked about delivering brand experiences without delivering a product. I can see there's lots of scope for really exciting stuff here.

Actually, the sort of challenges that lie ahead of us represent a brilliant opportunity for people like us.
We have the opportunity to be radical. We have in fact the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and re-design life. Now there's a creative brief.

I don't know about you but I am feeling better about my piss poor carpentry skills already.

There must be something to do with the name Andrew here. Notice the preponderance in the comments to this post?

funnily enough after 6 years in marketing and publishing i have been thinking about going back to school basics and taking an industrial design degree. i think I have been thinking the same things in my head about hard and soft skills and just the need to tactile satisfaction. plus the perverse globalisation that was a great idea 20 years ago, now feels suffocating. I don't like the things that are available to me cause they are so homogeneous and tired. I want to make my own world of things that are 100% original and 100% me. No more buying our life and our worlds, let's make it instead.

As a dual-degreed engineer/industrial designer I at least prepared myself for what I believed to be a future where the two were more closely tied; however, as Andrew mentions, programming is an important piece (I'm old enough to have gotten an engineering degree back when programming was something you taught yourself in order to solve some specific problems).

That's why I made a major move last year and have started my programming studies. With any luck, I'll be sketching, engineering, CADing, sculpting, fabbing and coding kirkyans in the not too distant future. I couldn't be happier.

Long ago I worked as an electronics assembler in what was to become "Silicon Valley". (Yes it WAS that long ago) We hand soldered everything so I learned how to solder with dispatch.

The process? First make sure your iron is hot and tined (clean and the primed with a little flow of solder. Wipe the iron tip on a wet sponge to remove excess solder)

Next make sure your connection is held together mechanically (wires twisted together, component leads placed in circuit board holes etc as appropriate to the project)

Next holding the soldering iron in one hand and your solder in the other, use the iron to heat the connection (but not so much that you lift a trace from a circuit board or melt the wire insulation)

Then with the iron still touching the connection, bring in the solder, touch it ever so briefly to the tip of the iron to start it flowing and then quickly move the solder down the heated connection so that it flows to cover the connection lightly and smoothly.

Remove the solder and then the iron so that you don't deposit too much solder (leaving a glob) or over-heat the soldered connection (leaving a gray mass that is weak and won't connect properly).

Anyway, that's what they taught me on the job. With a bit of practice you'll get it and then like riding a bike, you'll have the soldering skill forever.

Hopes this works for you

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