Neatly tucked away in our pockets are thousands of albums, gigabytes of computer memory, a camera and even a calculator all in the form of a Smartphone. However, because Smartphone’s are starting to look similar and we have run out of useful gadgets that can be packed into them, people are starting to question whether we are reaching a peak with technology. Mobile phones have come a long way in just fifteen years and it was always inevitable that in their current form the rate of growth would slow at some point before they go off in a new direction again. To generalise that the whole of technology has hit a peak because of a Smartphone though is a mistake. The general public’s expectations for new technology is largely at the hands of multinationals who inform us that a thinner, shinier and more efficient model of their last product is the best invention ever. Some of us no longer dream of flying cars, living on the moon and a robot cleaner but of an iPhone with a larger battery. 2013 promises us Google glasses, 4G connection speeds and more Smartphone’s which is still a long way off how Orbit City looked in the Jetsons.
The Law of Accelerating Returns by Kurzweil mentions that ‘whenever a technology approaches some kind of a barrier a new technology will be invented to allow us to cross that barrier.’ It also states that ‘within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to the Singularity—technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history.’ So when people say technology has reached a peak because a few Smartphone’s aren’t upgrading to our expectations then they are going to be in for a shock. If anything, we are still hunched over in the dark ages with nothing but an apple and a blackberry to keep us entertained. In the future we may laugh at having to carry phones, news printed on paper and cars running on fossil fuels that we had to drive ourselves. So what is holding us back from teleportation, gene modification, artificial intelligence, faster space travel and renewable energy? We are held back only by our imagination, the resources available to us on Earth and the large corporations who decide how much to invest into certain research and development projects based on profitability.
The Royal society of scientists has been going since 1640 but in Victorian times they apparently proposed to disband. Why? They believed they had learned all there was after the inventions of the bicycle, antibiotics, the telephone, light bulbs and my favourite, the jelly baby. This maybe an urban myth but one thing is certain, technology is only getting started.
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