כ״ב בשבט ה׳תשע״ד (January 23, 2014)
By Yonatan Gordon
It was only a few weeks ago that we were introduced to Amazon’s plan to fill the skies with a fleet of flying drones. But now it seems the excitement over having your baby wipes descend from above in less than thirty minutes is already old news. On December 24th, a patent entitled “Method and System for Anticipatory Packaging Shipping” was granted to Amazon.
The patent describes “speculative shipping” scenarios whereby packages could remain in continuous transit on trucks until a customers decided to make a purchase. In the words of the patent:
Speculative shipping of packages may enable more sophisticated and timely management of inventory items, for example by allowing packages to begin flowing towards potential customers in advance of actual orders,
We mentioned in “2014: The Year of the Non-Existent Product,” the inner reason why Amazon is working so hard to market themselves as an instantaneous delivery company. As stated there, the fact that a product needs to travel from a warehouse to the consumer is conceptually problematic, as we are all awaiting for the wellsprings of connected knowledge to burst forth. While tasting from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge entered the world into a state of exile of disconnection, we are anticipating a time when the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge will, as it were, be tasted while still connected to the tree.
Anticipating the New
We’ve been writing recently about anticipating headlines. It would make sense then that an article about anticipation was itself anticipated! As mentioned at the beginning, the patent was filed December 24th, but only started making headlines during this past week. From a Google News search, the first reference was on a site called 4-traders.com on January 2nd. Then on January 17th, news broke with close to 300 articles. This is an important distinction because while January 2nd corresponded to Rosh Chodesh Shevat, the class that we will now mention–from Tuesday night, January 7th–was the continuation of a series that began on Rosh Chodesh Shevat.
In our Aaron Swartz article, we mentioned the class from Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh that Wednesday morning, where he discussed having “a premonition of what will be the headlines of tomorrow’s newspaper.” What was not said was that the ability to anticipate the news corresponds to the sefirah of tiferet (beauty) according to model that was introduced called the “renewal of the Sefat Emet.” But we can go even further. In addition to anticipating the headline, we can also anticipate the concept which makes it appear new to begin with.
What makes something appear new? One approach is that we didn’t expect it. So let’s say we did expect it because we’ve been learning Torah well, as it is said of the Rogatchover Gaon, that he could connect current events with the Torah that he was learning.
But if we want this news to appear old, then we need to appreciate a greater new within ourselves. This is what Rabbi Ginsburgh called during the January 7th class the renewal of ourselves at every moment. He related this “continuous delivery” concept to the law that a Jewish convert is considered like a newborn infant. What continuous delivery are we anticipating? Instead of a UPS truck circling our block until we click the order button, we are anticipating the state we are now calling “the continuous delivery or renewal of our soul into the packaging of our body.”
Why then did it take so long for the headlines to come out? As mentioned, the patent had been filed and made public over three weeks prior. The answer is that Torah novelties always comes first. To say it another way, the story only appeared as new only after the source of the novelty within Torah was revealed.
While the concept of “instantaneous shipping” was around long before the patent was awarded December 24th, what makes something newsworthy is not the concept itself, but the innovation of the concept. This is the take-home lesson for this article: Even if what we are learning in Torah was written in the past, by seeking to innovate and become inspired from our learning, then we create our own headlines. Then from our Torah headlines, in an effort to catch up, the world subsequently follows later on with their diluted version of the story.
Activity: Think about the Torah you were learning prior to the “anticipatory shipping” announcement. What about it in retrospect seemed to relate to these “anticipatory” or “continuous delivery” concepts?
Yonatan Gordon has spent most of his past 13 professional years in the world of Jewish publishing. He was the Marketing Manager at Kehot Publication Society (publishing arm of Chabad) for the better part of six years. He is founder of the website CommunityofReaders.org.