The Space Needle and the Return of the Everlasting Why


How to design and build a tiny motorized elevator? This is the next frontier in our Space Needle project, and the elevator development process raises several relevant (and mildly frustrating) questions:

  1. Of what (preferably recycled materials) should our elevator be made?
  2. How do we get it to stop/switch direction when the elevator “car” reaches the top/bottom of its path?
  3. How fast should it go, and what is the simplest way to get it to travel at that speed?

We’ve spent a relatively decent amount of time and energy contemplating, discussing, and researching various answers to these questions. But there’s one question that’s arguably far more relevant (and more frustrating) than any of them: Why are we even trying to build a tiny Space Needle elevator at all?

Taken in a certain light, this question may appear obtuse or, at best, tangentially related to the more technical questions we are working through. But, it’s the question we keep using to help us answer the more technical questions. For instance:

“What if we cycled an LED array up and down to look like an elevator?”
“Hmmmm…Nah. We want some mechanical motion in the City of Light.”

At this point, we can’t completely answer this question, which feels like a weird thing to articulate. Shouldn’t we know this already?

None of the usual reasons apply. No one is paying us to do this (Really. No one.). Clearly, we’re not developing to a written set of specifications or requirements from any source (not even our own). We haven’t stumbled into any significant societal value in this particular project, per se. And, not surprisingly, a tiny Space Needle elevator isn’t part of any master plan to acquire wealth, power, or prestige, of which we are aware. So, Why?

It is perfectly rational, when staring into the Why Abyss, to shrug the shoulders and settle (or even retreat from the entire enterprise). And at times, let’s be honest, we have done that. But at other times, even when the abyss was at its most abysmal, we have refrained from doing the perfectly rational and, instead, responded with, “Let’s find out.”

We have no idea why.