Nothing gets humans up in arms like a new technology. Will it cure our ills and save us from destruction? Or end the world in one cataclysmic Earth-shattering moment? Clearly, no invention has accomplished either, but try telling that to the fanatical, hysterical or just plain irrational among us. Now, with technology advancing at an ever quickening pace, rational thinking is in short supply. Here then, to prove this point, are eight of the biggest freak-out moments in technology history:
Writing Will Make us Forget – Socrates
The written word and the ability to understand it is considered one of the most important developments ever achieved by mankind and a defining step for any civilization. But not everyone was always a fan. Even that hero of western philosophy, Socrates, once argued that writing would make people lazy and forgetful!
“The fact is that this invention will produce forgetfulness in
the souls of those who have learned it,” said Socrates, “They will not need to
exercise their memories, being able to rely on what is written,
calling things to mind no longer from within themselves by their
own unaided powers, but under the stimulus of external marks that
are alien to themselves. So it’s not a recipe for memory, but
for reminding, that you have discovered.”
Sound familiar? It is the same argument that some people nowadays are directing at both Google and the World Wide Web.
Given that pretty much every major advancement subsequent to the birth of writing is built on writing itself (collectively we have advanced much faster through the use of writing) it certainly did anything but make people lazy. Forgetful? Perhaps, on an individual level. But I sure am glad Plato broke out his quill to write down Socrates’ teachings, lest I couldn’t “remember” to complain about him now.
Get Out of the Way, Here Comes the Train!
Reportedly, when the Lumiere Brothers showed their films for the first time at the Grand Cafe in Paris in 1895, audience members ran out of the room in a panic. Why? To avoid being hit by the image of a train pulling into a station!
The future where buildings integrate energy generation systems like 'thin film' solar rooftops might be closer than you think.
Instead of designing expensive, bulky and ugly glass based solar panels, solar start ups are pushing down costs of plastic-substrate based 'thin film' solar cells that resemble today's roof shingles. The field also includes 'Big Chemistry' players like Dow and DuPont who hope to drop the costs of advanced solar materials.
PV Tech is reporting on the continued push by Dow Chemical to expand mainstream construction use power-generating roof shingles by 2011. Dow has already committed more than $3 billion towards polysilicon production that will help lower the global costs of solar cells.
“This facility has state-of-the-art printing capabilities that are ready for full operation, with the future potential to produce over a gigawatt of flexible plastic solar modules per year,” commented Howard Berke, executive chairman and co-founder of Konarka. “Our technical leadership and innovation in flexible thin film solar, along with this facility’s capabilities of producing in excess of 10 million square meters of material per year, will allow us to produce Power Plastic for indoor, portable, outdoor and building integrated applications.”
Konarka has long been considered a leading start up in the solar field, but this Gigawatt production capacity helps to cement its position among a growing base of thin film competitors. Analysts have been fond of describing ‘spectacular growth’ ahead for thin film solar, but near term expansion is not likely to be as easy as paper forecasts as the solar industry confronts fundamental challenges including rising costs of raw materials. Rising costs aside, the solar industry is expected to grow from a market volume of 5.6 GW in 2008 to 79.5 GW in 2015. And if thin film companies like Konarka can continue to open large scale MW and GW capacity plants they should certainly expect bright days ahead.
IBM held its Third Annual "Five in Five" which looks at emerging trends as well as what IBM itself is developing in their own labs around the world. Here's the vid.
While previous predictions given by these "Five in Five" releases can be somewhat fanciful (like mind-reading cellphones for instance), this latest list has the refreshing feel of being very near and very possible.
Solar technology will be built into everything
IBM states that within five years we could be seeing thin-film solar technology built into everything around us. This includes sidewalks, driveways, paint, windows and even clothing. Their belief is that thin-film solar will get so cheap that it can be applied everywhere in our lives. It's ability to be flexible also makes it easy to wrap around our daily devices which could benefit from a little extra power boost. It's interesting to think that while some people are clamoring for white asphalt and roofing tiles to reflect the Suns energy and save on lighting, another faction will emerge that will want solar film instead. Of course the question remains: are you going to want to hook a battery up to your clothing?
Your health can be pre-determined
Mapping DNA keeps getting faster and cheaper as the years go along. It only makes sense that very soon people will begin to use that genetic information to look for hereditary traits that could impact your health. In finding out you have a high chance of becoming diabetic, you may try and change your diet to avoid or delay its effects. Basically, it's the movie GATTACA without being able to actually alter the DNA before birth. I wonder how you'll take the news when they tell you that the junk food you so love is literally killing your body and taking years off your life.
Edging out the forthcoming Singularity Movie (not to be confused with this web version), here comes Transcendent Man, a new documentary film that portrays Ray Kurzweil and his vision of a, well, transcendent future for mankind. The film appears to be packed with star-power and will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC this April. The trailer below indicates 1) a focus on universal human transcension (a positive expansion of human perspective, imho), and 2) an attempt at objective framing by allowing in some critical voices, but none of the heavy hitters - appears to be mostly straw men. While I am optimistic the film will represent a socially necessary forward push of philosophical futurism, many futurists and I will ultimately judge this work on its analytical and objective qualities. That said, I'm hoping it delivers and eagerly await its broader release (probably via a cable network).
Some choice excerpts from the producer's press release:
Next generation energy storage solutions (e.g. batteries, fuel cells, capacitors) continue to gain attention from investors and energy forecasters who see significant growth ahead beyond typical production side investments.
The report updates Lux Research's analyses of eight thin battery manufacturers and draws on nine additional interviews with application developers downstream to assemble a comprehensive perspective on thin battery technologies, companies, and markets.
Thin batteries appear to be following a classic 'low end disruption' growth strategy of avoiding direct head to head competition with current 'coin cell' batteries in favor of growing around new applications. Lux describes potential growth across a range of sectors including healthcare (e.g. drug delivery patches), media (e.g. video displays), and information systems (e.g. RFIDs/Sensors)
Lux expects opportunities for investors able to find opportunities in later stage funding rounds but stress the inevitability of shake out in emerging markets. "By 2014, there simply won't be enough space in this market for ten thin battery companies to sustain a healthy business," said Jacob Grose, an Analyst at Lux Research and the report's lead author "Anyone interested in getting a seat at the table will need to identify the winners, and identify them early."