atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,
atomic_fungus
atomic_fungus

#4053: The end of an age

So I just completed a phone call that should activate the new phone and deactivate the old one, hopefully transferring the remaining 1960 airtime units in the process.

"Did you get your pictures off?" No. No, I did not. Thinking it was a connection problem--I get one bar here at the bunker--I started sending a picture to my e-mail account just before leaving the driveway today. An hour later it was still not done; 1G is slow but it's not that damned slow, and every time I got stopped by a light I checked the progress. Not once was the phone showing anything less than full bars; therefore there is something wrong with the phone itself and I cannot transfer the pictures to my computer. Argh etc.

I look forward to using the new phone. I played around with it a bit last night, just looking through the menus and such, and I think it'll be a fine upgrade for me.

* * *

Could Higgs have done his work in today's academic environment?

Regarding the history of technology is kind of like watching a time-delayed video recording on fast-forward: once you get to the present you're abruptly forced to slow down to real time and it seems glacial. Digital computers invented in 194x, transistor invented in 1947, microchips in 196x, microprocessor in 197x, and so on--it seems quick until you think about how much time actually passed, and then you realize that from the time of the invention of the digital computer until the Apple I was thirty years.

I mention all this because it's important to remember that progress seems glacial while it is happening but after the fact you can look at how quickly things developed with some perspective and realize that yeah, it was pretty fast going. I mean, it's been 30 years since the Commodore 64 was a $200 computer, and now we have cell phones with many times the computing power of a C64. (I just bought one...for $30. In dollars that are worth a hell of a lot less than 1983 dollars to boot.)

So when I read an article like this one, I wonder if such nonsense really has cost us anything? Because technology advances at an exponential rate--when you know more, you can learn more at a faster clip--it seems as if our technological level should be exploding, but in fact it doesn't seem to be doing so.

Where is the progress?

Well, for one thing, it's not a smooth curve. For another, we're spending a lot of time and money on trying to find ways to make miniature circuits both smaller and more efficient, because that's what pays the bills right now--and research dollars are being spent in the billions by major electronics companies to fund physics research because that's where the cutting edge of electronics is going to advance. Problem is, that's all incremental; the easiest work has been done.

And no one knows what the next big breakthrough will be, or from where it will come. Knowing that would be a big help.

I was thinking, this evening as I brought in groceries, about how technology advances, because I was thinking about how cold it was and how the clothing I was wearing to protect myself from the cold was not markedly different from the sort of things people wore 200 years ago. Some of the materials are different (and lighter) but my parka is still a heavy coat. Go back five thousand years--were those guys dressed any worse than I? They had only animal skins and hand-woven cloth to keep them warm, rather than space-age polymer insulation inside a nylon shell--but they were not less comfortable than I.

In 200 years will clothing have active heat transport, or some other kind of technology (of which we can barely conceive), so you need only wear a simple garment like a shirt or something to remain comfortable in 18° weather?

...then I came down to the simple fact that there's no way to tell because God alone knows what kind of technological advances will take place. Sure, climate weave clothing may become commonplace...and maybe we'll just change the f-ing climate. Correct Earth's axial tilt, perhaps, or find a way to adjust weather patterns to make winters more mild. Better clothing is more likely, but the latter idea is not impossible, either.

My ancient ancestor from 4,000 BC would not be able to conceive of a house that kept itself warm automatically, without me having to tend a fire, much less electric lighting or computers or cell phones.

I think the thesis of the article Vox Day links is a valid one: we really do need to let our smartest people--the ones who are interested in and capable of working with the useful things, the difficult things--we need to get out of their way and let them think, because that's where progress comes from.

The problem is identifying those people early enough that they can do what they do, of course.

* * *

Let me tell this story again.

A friend of mine, in about 1992-ish, was saying that his Chinese girlfriend never had to worry about having a place to live, food to eat, medical care, or education, because she came from a Communist country and her government took care of all that for her.

She also didn't have to worry about what to think, as her government carefully provided her with her opinions.

People who idolize communism don't seem to get that.

* * *

Well: about an hour after I did the transfer, my old phone is now saying "Unregistered SIM". Power-cycling the new phone shows that I now have airtime and service days on it, and I'm able to call and send text messages, so the new phone is now a fully armed and operational communications device. Whee!

Now all I have to do is load all my phone numbers on it....
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