First we fashioned cutting edges from lumps of flint, picked up off the ground. Powered by muscle and eye contact. Usable for any cutting purpose, at any time. No one cared about aesthetics or investment value. Only that a lump of flint could be modified to do the job.

Thousands of years later, using metallurgy, we cast different sizes and shapes of common table knives, from various metal mixtures (to indicate status). Designed to be used at meal times, on the table. And only useful for cutting some types of food (carving knives and steak knives did a different job).

Later still, people invented various kinds of pocket knives. Multi-purpose and portable. Designed for aesthetics, compactness and weight. Still powered by muscle and eye contact.

In the twentieth century, came automated, programmable cutting tools. These provided; speed, precision cutting, huge versatility, consistency and non stop operation. Muscle, eye contact, human portability and aesthetics became superfluous. We also got pre-sliced, mass produced bread, cans with tear tops, easy-tear packaging, ready meals, vitamin tablets, packaged bite-sized foodstuffs and pureed foods that could be enjoyed with a straw.

Now it seems we’re starting a phase of cutting out cutting altogether. Replace keyhole surgery with ingested, nano-sized surgical tools that inject medication directly into tumours. Dissolve diseased tissue and then replace with regenerated healthy tissue, grown insitu.  Replace dental drills with vapourising lasers. Print something out using additive manufacturing (3D printing) and you don’t need to cut things at all.

Will our grandchildren even know what a knife, saw, can opener or pair of scissors is?

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