OnQ Blog

In Defense of Useless Invention

Not all inventions are useful. Some are useless. And we should keep making them.

Earlier this week, Austrian designer Klemens Torggler posted a video of his newest door design. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a moment and watch.

Made from two pivoting squares, the door opens and closes in a smooth, unreal motion. Even more impressive is the door Torggler unveiled eight months ago: A spinning, folding machination of triangles.

Practically speaking, these doors are fairly useless. They can maim lingering fingers, and multiple moving parts means more failure points. Not exactly an improvement over the prevailing slab-of-wood-mounted-on-two-hinges-style design.

Has Torggler wasted countless hours trying to literally re-invent the door? Not exactly. Should people like him continue to produce useless inventions? Definitely.

It would be downright arrogant to claim that humanity has perfected the door. We need people to look at and challenge the things that we collectively accept "just are." We also need people to research how cancer and disease ravage our bodies, others to protect the innocent, and so on. But the door innovators have a place in this world too.

Take the aptly-named Durr: a faceless wristwatch that vibrates every 5 minutes. It costs $120. One hundred and twenty dollars for a thing that, at best, offers you a vague sense of time.

Should you buy these things? Probably not! Not if you’re looking for a door that poses little threat of bodily harm, or want to know precisely what time it is at a glance.

There have been plenty of silly inventions over the years (see Paleofuture). If volume is any indication, useless reimaginings are the lifeblood of invention. Just search “coffee cup” on Kickstarter.

Granted, 97 percent of the time the Internet Umbrage Machine will use those terrible ideas as fuel to keep itself going. But eventually, one idea will finally make someone say "you know what, this just might work." And all of a sudden, we look back on the two-hinge-and-door-knob-having rubes of the past and laugh.