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Meatballs, Worms, NASA, Joy and the Public Sphere - Metaphors Are Lies

Meatballs, Worms, NASA, Joy and the Public Sphere

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I unabashedly love this story about designers celebrating the return of the “worm” logo at NASA. It is a silly little story about a meaningless design change but the people in it are just so happy their favorite logo is making a comeback. They are so deep into their design nerdery and I just love it. Everyone should have something meaningless in the grand scheme of things that brings them this much happiness. The world would be a better place if we did.

And it is a meaningless change — logos do not an organization make, nor do they really make people like or dislike a place. Objectively, he says picking a fight amongst all this joy, the “meatball” logo (the one with the starfield) is a better logo. And a lot of these people would likely agree if they had first encountered NASA’s logos when the meatball was predominant (or when the worm was preeminent if they have the same contrarian, teenage little shit for their inner child as I do). But I don’t think less of NASA because they went with a inferior design choice. Yet here we are — design nerds nerding out over a logo and experience joy and happiness because their aesthetic preference has been validated. It means nothing and yet brings happiness and joy to a large range of people from different backgrounds and walks of life.

I genuinely believe that these kinds of little moments demonstrate that human beings are actually wired to get along. Nearly everyone has something like the worm logo in their life, something that brings them happiness for silly reasons, that does not matter in the larger world in any meaningful way and allows you to have good natured fun with others who disagree. Sports are likely the Platonic form of this, but almost anything can serve the purpose. Deep down, we are social creatures and while that has some ill, it can also have a lot of good.

I am no pollyanna. I realize that our collective differences represent meaningful choices and have significant impact on living, breathing humans. And some people will never agree to anything other than precisely what they want. But in practice, when you take people away from the agitators and the noise, they tend to try and get along. Look at citizen assemblies.

In Ireland, a collection of regular people chosen randomly resolved the abortion issue with a minimum of contention. There were people chosen by political parties, but they were out umbered by the average citizen. As a result, the citizens listened to expert testimony directly, talked amongst themselves, and came up with a plan to allow abortion that was subsequently approved by 66% of voters in a referendum. Similar assemblies in France, Germany and the UK have presented platforms for correcting global warming, though they did not have the power to force referendums and thus the politicians could and did kill many of the proposals. Bu the fact remains, ordinary people were perfectly capable of balancing needs and rights and solving these issues.

Again, I am perfectly aware that there are real, significant, important differences in the world. You will never convince me, for example, that capitalism is a moral economic system. But we have proven that people can and do work together on the most contentious of issues if given the opportunity. Never everyone will play nice, but most people do.

So read up on the joy of designers over the NASA work logo and remember that most people under most circumstances can work together.

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