A co-worker sent me a link today that I found very interesting and roused my inner Trekkie. It’s from ITWorld.com and titled “Why We Live in an Anti-Tech Age”
“Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal, billionaire investor and author, is among those challenging the notion of innovation and progress. Thiel, who earned undergraduate and law degrees at Stanford University, spoke at the Gartner Symposium/IT this week about why the march of progress seems to have stalled.
“We live in a financial, capitalistic age, we do not live in a scientific or technological age,” said Thiel. “We live in a period were people generally dislike science and technology. Our culture dislikes it, our government dislikes it.”
From the 1960’s to the 1980’s we were bombarded with stories and images in books, TV and movies leading us to believe that one day in the near future, normally sometime around the almost-mythical year 2000 (so, fourteen years ago now), we would all have flying cars, have colonies living on the Moon and Mars and “Boldly go where no one has gone before!” across the universe.
And it wasn’t all just “Science Fiction” either; there was a world-wide technological race. President John F Kennedy encapsulated the “Space Race” portion of it in his “We promise to go to the moon” speech
“During the 1950s or 1960s, technology meant computers and rockets, underwater cities, new forms of energy and all sorts of supersonic airplanes. Since then, though, there “has been this narrowing” view that technology is mostly information technology”, Thiel said.
We certainly do seem to have plateaued, possibly even technologically declined since, as rather than create grand new things, we have merely altered and refined smaller items – Just look at the likes of the “iPhone” – an idea that had its inception in Star Trek’s “communicators”. But rather than moving onto teleport technology, we merely get a further refined iPhone in slightly different colours every few years.
“Economist Robert Gordon, in a paper for the American National Bureau of Economic Research in 2012 said there is an absence of the type of innovation that advances civilization in fundamental ways. True innovation is something like air conditioning, the combustion engine or the telephone.”
Rather than scrapping NASA’s manned space programme, why didn’t they focus on getting humans further into the solar system and universe? Where is our “Warp” technology?
It’s all pretty depressing, really. We go from being the species that aspired to the stars and reached the moon to, fifty years later, being seemingly even more stuck on this large round rock hurtling through space than we were back then!
If you follow Star Trek folklore, you’ll know that the humans are allegedly set to make first contact with another race (the Vulcans) on April 5, 2063 after the Vulcans pick up readings of Earth’s first “warp flight”.
That gives us just under 50 years to create and perfect the technology. Not utterly unrealistic considering, with government backing, the “Manhattan Project” created the nuclear bomb in a mere three and a half years.
But what “Why We Live in an Anti-Tech Age” highlights is the need for society, big business and governments to get behind such audacious developments and help push them along.
Until then, the closest we’ll get to boldly going where no one has gone before is this!