Friday, December 04, 2009

The Evolution of Technology

(Egao No Genki)
Instructor: Sara Mertz
Creative Nonfiction MWF 1230-1320
Science Topics: Evolutions
November 23, 2009

The Evolution of Technology

I have noticed an accelerating trend in technology. It used to be that it took over 50 years for any noticeable measure of societal change to happen. The plow was invented in antiquity, but the same wooden plow was used for centuries until the cast-iron plow was invented in 1791. We notice an acceleration in the shift of paradigms here when that plow becomes replaced by the steel plow in 1839. Since then, we have graduated to self-propelled machinery that keeps getting better and better every decade.

You may be familiar with Moore’s Law – a doubling in the price-performance of computing hardware approximately every 18 months. That is also an acceleration of technology. Data storage used to cost thousands of dollars for a single megabyte, but nowadays, a one-gigabyte portable drive the size of a thumb can be bought for under $5, and a one-terabyte hard drive can be had for about $75-$150, and this price-performance trend will continue.

I wish I was born on y2k because new technology has made our lives more convenient. Children are having cellphones at younger ages these days, which becomes more of a necessity as parents become more worried about their children out of their sights, and fearful of kidnappings and anything that could happen to the kids after the fact. Many educational tools have been invented for children that make them brighter now than what was available when I was a child. Our society evolves with technology, and the evolution of technology has made our lives easier than ever before. Trivial issues and problems that we would not have given second thoughts to 50 years ago, become the forefront of our minds because when technology solves the larger problems, we get to concentrate our energies on the smaller issues in life. We have had a tendency to stamp out the larger problems first before the smaller ones in the history of human psychology, so now that technology takes care of the larger problems for us, we look for smaller problems to stamp out.

I should also note that in the future, there will be an acceleration of the acceleration of technology when artificial intelligence reaches human levels and becomes “self-aware.” One of the focuses of a humanlike artificial intelligence is self-improvement. When it teaches itself how to improve itself, its mechanics, and its everything, it will learn how to process everything faster, therefore, learn how to improve itself faster. When this accelerating snowball effect happens, this becomes asymptotic. The artificial intelligence will learn how to speed its processing power up to double the rate in, say, 96 hours, then 48, then 24, 12, 6, 3, 90 minutes, 45 minutes, and these doublings will take half the time as the last. When the doublings of intelligence and overall computing power reach the seconds interval, in a short time, what is called a “technological singularity” will occur. This is the moment when the speed and acceleration of technological advance occurs so fast, even the brightest humans will not be able to comprehend the event. When the artificial intelligence invents and improves our lives for us, a century’s worth of technological advances will happen in a decade, then 5 years, 2.5 years, and every new subjective century of technological innovation will happen in half the time as the previous leap of advancement, which eventually reaches what is also called the Technological Singularity.

Once the Singularity happens, our own Artificial Intelligence will become our guardians and nannies, subjecting us to an eternal virtual state of a renewed, responsibility-free childhood and of being in a daycare center. We will no longer have to work for the betterment of our lives ourselves because a superior computer-based entity will provide everything we need to have the best possible life. From there on out, all we have to worry about is the pursuit of our passions, and the best outlets of our creativities.



  1. Your essay is intriguing and thought-provoking. You make some very valid observations about technology and its rapid acceleration in our fast-paced world. I enjoyed your description surrounding artificial intelligence. I was able to follow your more complex ideas (like the ones about artificial intelligence) because you explained and identified simpler ideas prior to it. From your essay I gather that you enjoy this increase in technology and look forward to a day where you can focus on your passions instead of the "betterment of our lives" - very good.

  2. And it gets to the point where many technologies are advertised in Christmas lists.

    I, for instance, would like a digital radio and a Kindle.

    Yes, in the 2000s, there were more educational toys like the Leapfrog.

  3. Very thought provoking piece. You have a very rosy outlook on tech., but you must know how un-post-modern you are. Look at all the fiction out there warning us what happens when machines become "self-aware". They have a self, and therefore become self-ish, no longer functioning for our interests as "designed". On a writer-ly note, what is your fascination with 50 years? That timespan shows up twice in this entry without any sort of hard factual reason.