Oct 6, 2007

Path of Technology

I was thinking a bit today about technology. Alot of people tend to have the notion that in various tech industries, technology follows something like moore's law - getting exponentially better over time. All that is needed is some quantity of "research" whatever that is. Moore's law is that the speed of computers will double every 18 months.

There are historically other paths that science and technology have taken in the past in different industries, and to ignore these alternate possibilities seems rash:
  1. Chaos: The study of weather in the 60s(?) promised to allow long-term weather forecasting so that we could all schedule our picnic outdoors 3 months in advance and not worry about rain. Then chaos theory showed us why this is more or less an impossible thing to predict in the long term.
  2. Large Capital Cost: The Apollo missions ended with the Cold War. Things may eventually change, but space exploration, especially manned, has reverted. We haven't been to the moon in decades.
  3. Physical/Social Danger: Nuclear Energy promised to give us unlimited cheap clean energy forever. Instead, there has been no new nuclear power plants built in the US in about 15 years. Chernobyl, concerns about Yucca Mountain, public dissent killed off the nuclear industry.
Any one of these possibly scenarios could still play out in technologies of today. Bioinformatics and Drug Design could end up being a chaotic space in the limit. Creating an alternative fuel vehicle requires large capital outlays to make sure that there is a good vehicle and sufficient places to refuel it. A few high profile privacy violations could ultimately have chilling effects on social networking and the internet.

Who knows what the future will bring.

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