I’ve been reading a book called The Heights, by Kate Ascher. You may remember her first book, The Works, The Anatomy of New York City. The Heights is a book about the anatomy of a skyscraper. It’s almost as fascinating as The Works, but that’s hard to beat considering The Works is one of my favorite books of all time. There are a few chapters in The Heights devoted to elevators. One passage struck me hard:
Today’s elevators come in shapes that would surprise even Otis. Double-deck elevators allow loading and unloading at adjacent floors simultaneously, while twin-shaft systems feature multiple cabs moving within the same shaft. These and others now travel at speeds he could hardly have imagined— limited only by the ability of the human ear to adjust to changes in air pressure.
I find this fascinating— technologies that can’t be improved upon because humans cannot evolve fast enough to keep up with technology. This essentially means we’ve witnessed the near perfection of elevators. What are the others? I’d say the iPhone retina display. We simply cannot make a better display because our eyes cannot discern the difference between today’s display and one packed with more pixels. It’s kind of depressing, but at the same time awe-inspiring.
I’m pretty fascinated with the intersection between technology and the human body. But even more importantly, the technologies that have advanced so far that the only limitation is our own anatomy.
Hmm. I’m not sure I totally buy the argument. We can modify our scenarios, (such as deep sea diving). Maybe it’s not practical, but we could augment our body to account for high speed elevator transport. Just not feasible.