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The original 176 emoji

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Shigetaka Kurita, gift of NTT DoCoMo

The Museum of Modern Art holds the original 176 emoji, designed by artist Shigetaka Kurita.

From cavemen to Egyptian hieroglyphs, people have been using images to communicate for thousands of years. The language is not new. What is novel is the mobile phone revolution that facilitates it.

Each new technology rebirths the past; giving rise to the way we used to talk to each other. After all, it is language (vocal, written, or drawn) that separates humans from animals and allowed us to evolve. As Daniel Dennet writes in Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds

“Words are the best example of memes, culturally transmitted items that evolve by differential replication—that is, by natural selection.”

Emojis are shortcuts to words. If what’s old always becomes new again, what comes back next?

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By Wells Baum

Wells Baum is a daily blogger who writes about Life & Arts. He's also the author of Discvr.blog and four books.