Let me begin with this question. Are human beings getting increasingly intelligent or stupid?
The following answer seems beyond dispute: They are getting more and more intelligent.
In the course of several thousand years of his cultural history, man has acquired a more and more thorough and detailed understanding of the universe, the human world, life and society — in short, everything under heaven. Examples are legion. Our ancestors, out of their fondness for the moon and curiosity about it, created the legend of beautiful Chang'e flying to the moon. And Su Dongpo, a great poet of the Song Dynasty, wrote the following lines as a matter of course:
The Bright Moon, when will she appear?
Wine cup in hand, I ask the azure sky.
I don't know inside the heavenly palace
What time of year it is tonight.
Today, man has managed to land on the moon and even come back bringing with him some of its clods. Chang'e and her heavenly palace simply don't exist.
Could man have achieved that without becoming more and more intelligent?
Nevertheless, I also would like to bring forward some facts to show just the opposite. Examples are only too numerous. Packaging is the first thing I want to deal with.
People, especially women, sometimes need packaging in their social activities. Women dress casually at home, but when they go out, especially when they attend parties, they have to be gorgeously dressed and sprayed all over with French perfume. On the streets, the loud clip-clop of their high-heeled shoes and the strong aroma of their perfume will attract public attention far and wide. That's what we mean by packaging and I call it a kind of necessary packaging.
But there is another kind of packaging — the packaging of commodities. Such packaging is sometimes also necessary and, therefore, should not be mentioned in the same breath. Some time ago, as a visitor to Hong Kong, I found Chinese-made goods there selling at a much lower price than in the mainland and I also learned on inquiry that it was due to plain packaging that they were selling cheap though of equal quality as imported goods. I was quite puzzled about what the customers actually need. The goods or the package?
That reminds me of a little story. An old lady who lived in the upstairs of my building one day went to the food market insisting on buying a chicken with yellowish feathers. The chicken vendor asked,“What do you eat? Chicken or the feathers?”
Nowadays, the packaging of some commodities is fantastically overdone. The boxes, made of wood, paper or metal, are usually very large and very colorful and dazzling. They take up a lot of space on the goods shelves and are very cumbersome whether carried by car or by hand. Very unwieldy whether carried by left hand or right hand, placed vertically or horizontally. And it is also a big headache to have it opened at home. Search left and right, and you still cannot locate the commodity in the huge box. You will probably wish for a slip of paper therein bearing the written note,“10 more kilometers to the commodity!”so as to retain your confidence in the search. According to my rough statistics, some commodities take up only one tenth, one twentieth or even one fiftieth of the space in the huge package. Thinking back to the above-mentioned story of chickens and chicken feathers, I cannot but ask,“The commodity or the package, which do you need?”After all, the wool still comes from the sheep's back as the saying goes. It is customers like us that will have to bear all the heavy expenses for packaging. And the flashy package, when emptied of its contents, will be nothing but a garbage heap.
Here is my answer to the question I raised at the beginning: Man is becoming more and more stupid. What could you say in retort?