Our vocabulary is now littered with ‘mash up’ words, or portmanteaus – coatigan, brunch, guesstimate, hangry, frenemy and spork are just some of the many frankenwords we now hear on a daily basis.
Our every waking moment provides a new opportunity to encounter a ‘mash up’ of one sort or another. Think of:
- The time Eminem duetted with none other than Dido to create ‘Stan’
- Jimmy Carr’s ‘8 out of 10 cats’ starting to create a show to fit the Countdown format
- Pineapple, every time it is used on a Hawaiian Pizza or in Sweet & Sour Chicken
- Putting peanut butter and jam together on a sandwich
Reinventing the wheel
As a society, are we constantly on the lookout for more choice and variety in the world, or is it simply that we are running out of new ideas hence the advent of the strange mash up combinations?
Many believe that most of today’s inventions are actually just improvements on earlier creations, such as Dyson perfecting the vacuum cleaner, or LED bulbs replacing the original filament bulbs. Are we simply having a revolution, or evolution, of existing ideas? If this is the case, why are we even bothering to refine existing products and services?
Necessity is the mother of all inventions
Human beings have, almost always, historically invented new products due to a need. In the modern day, most of us have our basic needs covered – we have tools, we live in structured societies rather than hunter-gatherer groups, we have passed both the agricultural and industrial revolution to provide constant food sources and the ability to create goods such as cars, and we live in a modernised world. We have had a large amount of progress in all fields – science, religion, culture, arts – and many believe we are now coming close to the pinnacle of our ability to improve the world around us.
We’ve only been living in the latest phase – the modernised world – for about 60 years and, in reality, much of the world is yet to catch up. Many of the radical inventions that took place over the last few years, such as wireless internet, wearable technology and clean energy, that make the world the comfortable place we know and love it to be, aren’t noticed as the staggering concepts that they truly are simply because we are too busy living in the now. We live this way of life each and every day, so we fail to notice the monumental shifts, we just see improvements over old techniques.
Closing the gap
What some are very aware of is the inequality that exists around us, and in their aim to reduce the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, are finding methods to make the modernised world accessible to all.
Take the example of the light bulb – why bother refining it when we already have light? The old-fashioned filament lightbulbs that have existed since 1879 were energy hungry, short lived things – the LED bulbs of today, on the other hand, last approximately 50 times longer than even the relatively new halogen bulbs and use just a fraction of the energy to provide equivalent lighting power. These refinements reduce cost to those struggling to make ends meet. They, along with other reinventions, allow us to make a modern way of life accessible to more of the 7 billion people living on planet Earth.
So, perhaps, many mash ups are being born out of need still. Webinars allow workers to meet without hefty costs of worldwide travel, radio clocks have started the day off right for thousands of us since the 1940s, and paperless cash is allowing millions worldwide to transact in a safer and more accessible way.
I am still looking for a solid justification of those peanut butter and jam sandwiches, however!