A compilation of medical injury reports from emergency rooms across the country shows that an average of ten people suffer severed fingers from a tablesaw every day as reported in the New York Times. That is roughly 3500 to 4000 people each year who wish they had used this technology.
I appreciate the stories of those who ventured a change. I, too, gave up a white collar executive career as an expert witness to devote time to making outdoor furniture (I live in South Florida). The struggle is to convince potential buyers that my products are of a much higher quality, much sturdier and of a more unique design than mass produced items selling for half the price. The internet has made it possible to comparison shop for the lowest price and the photos are alluring. What doesn't come across are the details, workmanship and strength of materials that distinquish mine from the rest. Even locals who can see my work hesitate to pay more than the lowest web price they can find. It is tough to make a go of it.
When seatbelts and later on airbags were first shown to be effective in saving lives, auto manufacturers refused to put them in because they cost a lot or were cumbersome. The woman who spilled the coffee at McDonalds suffered serious first degree burns that could have been prevented with a cooler drink. Remember when no one used child car seats to prevent injuries in a collision? How about the toys that kids would swallow and choke or the pool drains that would catch a small girls long hair? How about when there were no child proof caps on poisonous products or drugs? Not long ago ground fault interrupt electrical outlets were not commonly used. The truth is many horrible accidents could have been prevented with better design or improved technology but manufacturers are reluctant to incorporate them due to added costs or inconveniences that would make them non-competitive. Lawyers were responsible for pushing for these common and now expected improvements to happen. If the end result of this unfortunate story is that the saw-stop technology is adopted across the board by competing manufacturers (which is the lawyer's real point) the cost will come down appreciably and we all will be much safer. The point is that when an obvious technology, design change or product improvement is available to vastly improve the safety of a product that is inherently dangerous then we should use it. Accidents with serious, life-changing consequences happen to even smart, cautious and prudent people.
Perhaps the greatest landscape architect and garden designer of all time, Roberto Burle Marx, once taught a class of young architects and industrial designers and told them, "Never copy yourself, always copy someone else". His point was that to grow and evolve as a designer one needs to consciously look outside oneself for inspiration. The artist/designer who copies themselves grows stale and predictable (you have all seen the artist at a fair with a booth filled with the same painting done 100 slightly different ways).
Copying, in the best sense does not mean ripping off every detail. Copying is simply another word for "inspired by". The Japanese copied Detroit but vastly improved on their product. The Chinese copy our alternative energy innovations but are vastly improving upon them. If one wants to prevent literal rip-offs by mass producers, then copyright them. Otherwise, enjoy the exchange of ideas and grow with the rest of us.
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