The plastic bottle
I was with a group of folks last week. We meet up about once a year, and inevitably conversation went to what everyone was doing at work.
Individually, I would probably want to hear each story to get to know what's happening in everyone's life a little better. But cumulatively, the stories were quite boring. The truth is that most of us don't really very interesting work. This is not to say that I am more interesting and therefore am judging everyone else for being boring, but that the same applied to me. I wouldn't want to listen to myself talk about work.
I remember as I listened, i was holding onto a plastic bottle, occasionally taking a sip of water. And it just struck me then that, you know what, this bottle is really interesting. It's interesting in the minutiae, the details. Where did this plastic come from? How did they keep costs super low for this. Who was the first guy who came up with a design for the plastic bottle? Did the first designs already took into account the average fist size of people, for an easy grip? When did advertising start getting slapped onto the bottle? And was it deliberate that most bottles have standard, interchangeable bottle caps. But it is also interesting at the macro level. How many bottles are made every day? How many of them are recycled in some way or another? How are they recycled? How much do these plastic bottles contribute to climate change and harm animals? How many animals get killed because of our plastic bottles? Is it more than all the people killed animals every year? How many animals get killed in total? How do we shift people away from plastic bottles? What's the alternative to all the bottles of different drinks everywhere?
And the list of questions and things to discuss go on and on. All of which seem so much more interesting than the perpetual subject of people and kids and jobs and food. Yea, I mean these are important but how many conversations are on issues and observations, when there are so many to discuss? I long for these conversations where we can just move away from our lives for just a while. To talk about neuroscience, about design, about inequality, about manufacturing, about history. Some days, even that plastic bottle feels like a better topic.