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When it comes to discussing the deficiencies of a particular artifact’s design, it represents the matter of a crucial importance to be able to identify the extent of this item’s compatibility with currently predominant socio-cultural discourses.
The reason for this is quite apparent – in order for a particular design to be considered thoroughly efficient, it must be reflective of people’s discourse-related existential anxieties/expectations (Foucault, 1978).
In its turn, this provides us with the objective reason to suggest that the conventional design of circularly shaped mechanical/quartz wristwatches, which features hour, minute and second hands, can no longer be considered discursively relevant, because it does not reflect the actual realities of a post-industrial living. Let me begin arguing the case from afar.
Even though that there can be few doubts, as to the fact that conventional wristwatches do allow their owners to keep a good track of time, these watches’ design mirrors what is now being proven a theoretically fallacious concept of the universe.
After all, throughout the course of the early 20th century (when a conventional design of wristwatches came to its prominence), people had very few doubts, as to the ‘orderly’ essence of the universe’s workings. Back then, scientists saw the universe as a giant complicated mechanical devise.
The idea was that the universe was a huge and intricate machine that obeys orderly mathematical rules. If you knew the rules of how the machine was configured to start with, as you turn the handle over and over again, it would behave in an entirely predictable way.
In essence, the universe was believed to be a huge cyclically functioning celestial ‘mechanism’, which in turn implied the predictability of its observable manifestations. Hence, the philosophy of the mechanical wristwatches’ design – it was meant to uphold the people’s Newtonian view of the surrounding reality and their place in it.
Just as the planet Earth revolves around the Sun in a thoroughly orderly and predictable manner, so does the hour-hand in mechanical watches. The movement of the minute-hand reflects the Newtonian subtleties of the Moon’s rotation around the Earth.
In its turn, the movement of a second-hand can be well seen, as such that reflects people’s deep-seated expectations, concerned with the Earth’s rotation around its own axis, which causes watch-wearers to experience the sensation of a cyclical flow of time.
As Aveni (1989) noted, “On your wrist, you may see yet another mechanism we have made to control both the passage of events and the rhythm of our behavior. This device’s very shape conveys the notion of the daily round of time and the natural form of the sky” (p. 88).
This explains the metaphysical significance of many mechanical watches’ complications, meant to ‘predict’ evolutions in the celestial ‘sphere’, such as the moon-phase indicator.
Apparently, by wearing these watches, people unconsciously strive to overcome their growing suspicion that there is in fact no God in the universe, which in turn makes them more emotionally stable.
Nevertheless, as history goes on, it becomes increasingly harder for people to remain thoroughly comfortable with the cyclical passage of time, which they get to observe on their conventionally designed wristwatches.
This is because, due to the recent discoveries in the field of physics, the concept of the universe, as a fully predictable celestial mechanism, has grown hopelessly outdated.
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After all, in light of these discoveries, the universe appears to be not a mechanism, but rather an organism, which continually evolves and which will eventually age and die, due to the forces of entropy.
The discovery of the ‘uncertainty principle’ by Werner Heisenberg in 1927, created objective preconditions for the earlier mentioned discursive development to occur. According to this principle, it is fundamentally impossible for researchers to be simultaneously aware of the atom’s location and its speed.
This is because, contrary to the classical conceptualization of an elementary particle, the theoretical provisions of quantum mechanics point out to the fact that the atom’s actual location is being spatially ‘dispersed’ – the same atom can be found in a few different locations, at the same time (Heelan, 1975).
The discursive implications of the ‘uncertainty principle’ are quite apparent – the universe’s workings cannot be predicted by definition, because the universe itself is being made out of fundamentally unpredictable ‘bricks’, commonly known as atoms.
Thus, the conventional design of mechanical/quartz watches, which extrapolates the philosophical significance of the 19th century’s scientific conventions, can no longer be considered fully attuned to the discourse of relativity.
Yet, this particular discourse nowadays defines the qualitative aspects of the 21st century’s living. Partially, this explains why, as of today, it became a commonplace practice among many people to complain about the fact that, while wearing conventionally designed wristwatches, they experience the sensation of having no control over their own lives.
Apparently, while being exposed to the visually observable movement of minute and second hands, people have no other option but to consider the possibility that they themselves are nothing but the replaceable elements of a ‘social machine’.
Therefore, it will not be much of an exaggeration, on my part, to suggest that, as of today, there are a number of discursive preconditions for the classic design of wristwatches to be radically revised.
Instead of serving the function of prompting people to lead ‘socially-responsible’ lifestyles, wristwatches should serve the function of increasing the extent of people’s emotional comfortableness with the notion of a godless and chaotic universe, in which the flow of time has an unmistakable relativist subtlety.
Mapping the dimensions of the problem
Given what has been said earlier, the conceptualization (mapping) of the discursively relevant design for wristwatches should be concerned with the following:
a) Abandoning mechanical movements. As it is being the case with the design of just about every life-enhancing gadget, the design of wristwatches must reflect the practical implications of an ongoing technological progress.
Therefore, the practice of powering wristwatches with mechanical movements can no longer be deemed appropriate. After all, as compared to mechanical wristwatches, battery-powered quartz and digital wristwatches are being much more accurate and price-friendly.
Even though that, as of today, mechanical watches continue to enjoy popularity with many intellectually inflexible people, this state of affairs will not last forever, as it is being inconsistent with the objective laws of history.
b) Abandoning minute and second hands. Ever since the notion of ‘design’ came into a practical prominence, it never ceased being considered synonymous with the notion of ‘improvement’.
In its turn, the notion of ‘improvement’ cannot be discussed outside of how improving the design of a particular device result in its simplification – without affecting the concerned device’s functional integrity.
As Balazs and Brown (2000) argued, “The design simpliﬁcation problem is the problem of ﬁnding another design that has the same function as the original design and its complexity is less than that of the original design” (p. 2).
Therefore, it will only be logical, on my part, to suggest that the improved design of a wristwatch should feature the absence of minute and second hands. This is because, as it can be seen in the picture below, a thoroughly effective timekeeping can be well accomplished with only one hand.
There may be only two objections to this particular method of a timekeeping – the fact that the majority of watch-wearers will find it hard to adjust to it, and that this method is not being just as accurate, as the conventional one. These objections, however, can be successfully addressed.
First, once people realize the advantages of tracking time with only one hand, such as the absence of a ‘time pressure’, for example, they will be willing to switch to it.
The sheer swiftness, with which people switched from riding three-wheeled bicycles to riding two-wheeled ones, during the course of the early 20th century, validates the legitimacy of this statement.
Second, the realities of a post-industrial living suggest that wristwatches no longer need to be capable of indicating the passage of short periods of time (e.g. minutes and seconds). This is because, as of today, the notion of a ‘time-efficiency’ has been deprived of its original discursive significance.
The validity of this suggestion can be well illustrated in regards to the fate of Concord supersonic passenger planes, which have been declared economically unfeasible and consequently ‘retired’.
The reason why it happened is simple – even though these planes were capable of flying over the Atlantic ocean within a matter of four hours, they were not offering passengers a de facto opportunity to ‘beat the time’.
This is because, due to the safety-ensuring measures, implemented in today’s airports, the process of passengers registering for the flight and boarding the plane, takes as much as 5-7 hours.
Therefore, there are no good reasons to believe that, due to not having minute and second hands indicating the flow of time on their watches, the concerned individuals would suffer from the extent of their existential competitiveness being severely undermined.
Quite on the opposite – without being constantly reminded that the ‘time is money’ (the subtle message, conveyed by conventionally designed watches), the wearers of single-hand watches would be more likely to effectively address their mentally unhealthy anxieties, in regards to their realization of their own mortality.
c) Abandoning circularly shaped displays. As it was mentioned earlier, the circular shape of wristwatches originates out of its original designers’ assumption that the universe ‘s functioning is being essentially cyclical.
Nevertheless, along with being conceptually fallacious, this assumption has a number of the counterproductive effects on its affiliates. The foremost of them is the fact that, while wearing conventionally designed wristwatches, people are being subtly prompted to believe that their life-experiences are bound to ‘reoccur’ periodically.
In its turn, this makes them less capable of grasping life-advancing opportunities and consequently – undermines their chances to attain a social prominence. This simply could not be otherwise, because while assuming that these opportunities come and go, people do not quite realize the social implications of their existence’s spatial limitedness.
Therefore, the discursively sound design of wristwatches must feature a rectangular display, so that the watch-wearers may be indirectly reminded of the fact that the observable emanations of the surrounding reality are being dialectically predetermined (causes define effects).
In its turn, this should provide the concerned individuals with an additional incentive to think twice, before deciding in favor of a particular course of action – hence, making them more ‘existentially fit’.
Scenario for what could be
In light of the earlier outlined theoretical/discursive premises, which I believe justify the introduction of a revolutionary new design for wristwatches, the identification of resources that may be deployed, within the context of advancing this design, does not represent much of a challenge.
First, I plan to take advantage of what appears to be the foremost qualitative aspect of today’s living in Western countries – namely, an ongoing ‘de-westernization’ of public discourses.
Whereas, even as recent as a few decades ago, it used to represent a commonplace practice among Western politicians/educators to assess the reality through the perceptual lenses of euro-centrism, this has now effectively ceased to be the case.
This, of course, establishes objective prerequisites for more and more people to be willing to express their opposition to the Judeo-Christian ‘mechanistic’ worldview – especially if they happened to be ethically visible (non-White). Wearing unconventionally designed watches will come in particularly handy, in this respect.
Second, I will utilize the fact that the realities of a modern living naturally prompt many people to grow increasingly concerned with exploring their sense of self-identity.
After all, as of today, only not particularly bright individuals continue to believe that, in order for them to be considered productive individuals; they must adhere to the socially upheld conventions of a behavioral appropriateness.
This is exactly the reason why in today’s Globalized world, it is specifically the people’s strive to attain an ‘individuation’, which appears to affect their purchasing choices to an ever increased extent.
Therefore, while being exposed to wristwatches, designed in accordance with the earlier outlined design-guidelines, the ‘individuation’-seeking potential buyers should be naturally prompted to find them aesthetically appealing.
The rising popularity of those watch-making companies that specialize in manufacturing unconventionally designed wristwatches, such as MB&F, Devon and Romain Jerome, validates the legitimacy of this suggestion.
The picture below exemplifies my vision of how a modern watch should look like. This is only a schematic design, of course.
The novelties, featured in my wristwatch design, include:
a) Rectangularly shaped LCD display, imbedded in the flexible (plastic) wristband. This is meant to emphasize the culturally-relativist aspects of modernity.
After all, it does not represent much of a secret that nowadays; it often proves impossible for ordinary people (in Western countries) to come up with a definite answer, as to what kind of a methodological principle they resort to, while differentiating their ‘first order’ life-priorities from their ‘second order’ ones.
This, however, does not prevent many of them from being able to enjoy a high-quality living. In a similar manner, despite the fact that my watch-design is being concerned with the absence of a ‘dividing line’, between the actual watch and the band, this will not make the actual watch any less of an efficient timepiece.
b) Jumping (electronic) ‘hand’, which resembles the appearance of hour and minute hands in mechanical/quartz watches. The passage of time is indicated by the arrow-shaped ‘hand’, which constantly moves in the upward direction.
After having reached 00.00 (am/pm), the ‘hand’ jumps down and begins to move upward again. The difference between pm and am is represented by the LCD display’s varied coloring. At 00.00 am, the display turns black. At 00.00 pm, it turns gray.
The idea, behind the ‘hand’s’ design, is to ridicule the concept of a mechanical timekeeping – just as many of modern mechanical timepieces ridicule the idea of a digital timekeeping, as seen in the picture below.
The fact that, as it was mentioned earlier, the hour/minute ‘hand’ radically changes its positioning on the display, symbolizes the idea that, despite the apparent ‘orderliness’ of the universe’s functioning, it nevertheless remains fundamentally unpredictable.
Asteroids hit planets, stars explode, galaxies collide – every time it happens, the universal laws of non-organic and organic evolution set the ‘clock’ back into 00.00 position. Therefore, under no circumstances may Westerners take their current well-being for granted, while expecting that will be able to enjoy it on a continuous basis.
After all, Heisenberg’s ‘uncertainty principle’ denies the very possibility for people to be able to predict future events with the 100% accuracy. This is the subtle message, which I expect to be conveyed by the proposed watch-design.
Thus, it can be well assumed that the proposed watch-design is being potentially capable of contributing to the process of traditional conventions (about the very essence of the surrounding reality and about the purpose of one’s life) to be continually reassessed.
It may also benefit watch-wearers, in respect of how they go addressing life’s challenges, because by being exposed to the observably relaxed and yet the persistent flow of time, they will be more likely to properly identify their situational priorities.
Even though that that the wristwatches’ foremost purpose even today continues to be discussed within the context of how they make it possible for people to keep a good track of time, there are a number of good reasons to expect that in the future, the timepieces’ functionality will attain a discursively new quality.
The very laws of a historical progress predetermine such an eventual development. In this respect, many parallels can be drawn between the developmental evolution of wristwatches and cellular phones.
After all, despite the fact that initially, cellular phones used to be viewed solely as the wireless versions of conventional phones, they are now being commonly referred to as nothing less of the identity-forming gadgets. Nowadays, many people refuse to even imagine what their lives would be like without cellular phones.
Therefore, it will only be logical to hypothesize that in the future, the wristwatches’ primary function will be different; as compared to what it is being the case with this function today.
I personally believe that it is being only the matter of time, before wristwatches would be looked upon, as such that expose their owners’ varying degree of cognitive comfortableness with the ideals of trans-humanism.
It is important to understand that, within the matter of another few decades, it will become practically possible to install microchips into people’s brains, which would allow them to learn new languages instantly and to ‘upgrade’ their memory. Some scientists even suggest that people will be able to attain a de facto immortality, by the mean of saving their consciousness (souls) on material mediums, such as the advanced DVD discs, for example (Kurzweil, 2005).
However, in order for people to become emotionally comfortable with the idea of a trans-human living, they must be provided with the opportunity to test the idea’s validity experientially.
In this respect, wearing wristwatches, designed in accordance with the earlier outlined specifications, should come as an ‘intellectually-stimulating’ asset.
This is because; the proposed watch-design presupposes that, while having these watches on their wrists, people should be growing ever more open-minded to the idea of allowing non-organic gadgets to be implanted into their bodies.
The reason for this is apparent – the utilization of the 21st century’s digital technology will allow making these watches maximally thin. In fact, the potential buyers would be provided with the opportunity to have ‘my’ wristwatches sawn under their wrists’ skin, so that only the LCD display would be showing.
It is needless to mention, of course, that, as time will go on, the original design of what may be well referred to as a first truly trans-human wristwatch in the history of mankind, will be continually updated.
For example, it does make a thoroughly logical sense to expect that, in the future, the design of ‘trans-human’ watches (originally conceived by me) will feature the functions of a cellular phone and GPS.
Moreover, it is also not altogether unreasonable to expect that the updated design of this particular wristwatch will allow the concerned watch-wearers to take pictures, to record videos, to log on into the Internet and to play computer games.
Apparently, the era of mechanical wristwatches is about to end. The only reason why, as of today, these wristwatches continue to represent an aesthetic appeal to many people, is that by wearing them they are able to emphasize their high social status (some mechanical wristwatches with tourbillions often cost as much as millions of dollars).
Nevertheless, in the future, it is not the amount of money people have in the bank, which will reflect the extent of their ‘existential fitness’, but these people’s ability to lead intellectually-flexible lifestyles.
This simply could not be otherwise, because such their ability will significantly increase their chances to acquire knowledge. And, as we are being well aware of, the notion of ‘knowledge’ is being synonymous with the notion of ‘power’.
Thus, it will not be much of an exaggeration to suggest that the proposed watch-design is indeed being reflective of what would be the nature of ‘things to come’ in the field of watch-making.
Hence, the main postulates of the ‘Trans-Human Watch Manifesto’, which I believe should be distributed among the owners of watch-making companies, in order to encourage them to consider acquiring a license on replicating my watch-design:
- The design of wristwatches must serve the function of facilitating the pace of the humanity’s intellectual/technological advancement.
- The design of wristwatches must help people to realize the sheer outdatedness of the universe’s mechanistic model.
- The design of wristwatches must have an empowering effect on watch-wearers in question.
- The design of wristwatches must be consistent with the philosophy of trans-humanism.
- The design of wristwatches must be psychologically therapeutic.
I believe that this Manifesto fully correlates with the line of argumentation, as to the discursive significance of my watch-design, deployed throughout the paper’s entirety.
Aveni, A. (1989). The empires of time: Calendars, clocks, and cultures. New York: Basic Books.
Balazs, M. & Brown, D. (2000). Design simpliﬁcation by analogical reasoning. Web.
Foucault, M. (1978). The history of sexuality. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Heelan, P. (1975). Heisenberg and radical theoretic change. Zeitschrift fur allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie / Journal for General Philosophy of Science 6 (1), 113-136.
Kurzweil, R. (2005). The singularity is near: When humans transcend biology. New York: Viking.