Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Future As Farse



Faster / Stronger / Better ?

I was walking down the hallway at work yesterday when I passed a cart laden with boxes of paper. On top of one of the piles was a CD-ROM laying exposed without a cover or case.

I sort of smirked to myself, thinking "What a security breach". I had no idea what was on the CD, but knew it could be volumes and volumes of almost anything. The complete Encyclopedia Britannica, Plans for a Nuclear Device, the racy honeymoon photos of one of my co-workers. The possibilities were endless.

Technology has progressed so fast in the past 20 years that it has leap-frogged most people's ability to comprehend the change.

When I go into Walgreen's Drug Store to browse the 'old folks aisle', where they have solutions for ailments that you never knew existed as a young adult, I always swing by the battery wall, to see how much the cost of SD-Cards has dropped. SD-Cards are the little plastic chips that fit into computers and digital cameras that can store data.

About 6 years ago, a 128K SD-Card ran about $80. Today a 4Gig SD-Card runs about $30. That would be a 300% increase in capacity for a third the original cost. Never mind that the little SD-Card (they are about the size of your thumbnail) can hold 4 CD-ROMs and that the 32 Gigabyte SD-Card (that would hold 36 CD-Roms) is on the horizon.

These changes are happening so fast, that no one really notices anymore.

While browsing my favorite websites this morning with my cup of coffee (we used to read the 'paper' but that is so analog these days). I came across this little story tucked inside a sarcastic tech blog I read called "Geekologie". It is about a new carbon material called "Graphene". I suppose this is another take off on the carbon components known as Nano-tubes that I read about last year. To quote from the article:

"It is the thinnest known material in the universe, and the strongest ever measured. Like diamond, graphene is pure carbon. It forms a six-sided mesh of atoms that, through an electron microscope, looks like a honeycomb or piece of chicken wire. Despite its strength, it's as flexible as plastic wrap and can be bent, folded or rolled up like a scroll."

Now I am sure that the pitfall of "Graphene" at this point is that it is super expensive to make, much less make in large quantities. But then again, so were 128K SD-Cards 6 years ago.

The potential of something like "Graphene" are endless. High tension wires that can transmit power and communication and never break or sag. Automobiles that are crash resistant and weigh less than $500. A trendy work shirt that can double as body armor.

In his science fiction masterpiece "RingWorld", author Larry Niven hinted at something like 'Graphene'. It was a thread no thicker than a human hair and it was unbreakable. Tied between two stones, it could be hurled at an opponent and instantly decapitate them. Science Fiction...gotta love it.

My point here is that I hear about this on a Nerd Blog that also features see-through bikinis and new ways to improve the performance or your 1978 Nintendo NES system. It isn't real mainstream news on CBS and CNN anymore.

Technology is just 'there' and it is changing our lives without any real forethought of how it works, or if it is a really good idea in the societal sense.

Twitter is a great concept for global consciousness and communication, but do we really want adolescents using it as a cheap form of psycho-therapy while also giving predators the ability to stalk our children? Creating technology comes with responsibility. That concept seems to be lost in the modern world.

Even though I try and keep up with what is going on and coming down the pike, I realize that my grandson's world will be so far different than mine, that I won't even be able to comprehend it when he is my age.