Monday, October 29, 2012

Plain technology

"What if this is as good as it gets?"

Is it possible we've hit a technology plateau? Kind of like the airline industry where the flying experience today is pretty much the same as the industry early days. Or the Model T is the template for all automobiles moving forward. It's odd we seem to be moving and changing so fast but not getting very far.

Why is that? The only explanation I can think of is at the end of the day, it's just data - text, audio, and video. And physical limitations of travel. Delivery mechanisms might change, technology might become easier but we're still simply reading, watching, & listening. And trying to squeeze more efficiency & productivity.

Some caveats:
As soon as I post this, a technological breakthrough will happen, say carbon nanotubes or something. But isn't that just making it faster?

I'm not a video gamer but some of the Kinect stuff does look cool. Possibly Kinect is a different way of interacting with technology. I'd buy that.

I'm still not sure I'd buy a driverless car. Humans seem to want to be in control. In good & bad ways.

See also Why We Can't Solve Big Problems. We delivered a man on the moon in 1969. We dropped a rover on Mars in 2012. Lots of differences in technology, delivery mechanisms, speed, etc., but maybe the same thing, a bit further, a bit more elegant solution...? Understandable that we discarded the human payload as well - since there are "more useful things to do on Earth."

Google Project Glass will be interesting but I suspect people, at least initially, will not want to wear technology.

Tesla Model S seems built up as a large step forward in the evolution of automobiles, but I suspect it drives pretty much the same.

There's no doubt in my mind technology trickles down and even poor, poor pitiful me can have seat warmers in my vehicle. But it will be a long, long time before I own Google Glasses or a self-driving car.

Being able to view and control our home environment will be nice but it will take a while to re-wire or build the infrastructure. I suspect people prefer to leave their thermostat/refrigerator/freezer at a comfortable setting and forget about it. See Scott Adams' Machine Love.

Time seems to be a major factor. Social media is not technology but it takes a lot of time to read mostly mundane, 140 character one-liners, and pics of our dinner plate. We can rationalize this time by saying we get news or keep up on distant family or friends. It'd be much better to actually interact with our family & friends or physically feel a new experience than to read, watch, or listen to it on a monitor or multiple screens (while watching the latest reality show, drama, or athletic event). Would we be able to solve bigger problems if we pooled all our social media & television time together?

Technology was supposed to save time and make things simpler. But it doesn't always feel like we execute that way. I'll re-evaluate this post when the computer mouse dies. Or when I see the poll that tells me how many people actually schedule their coffee maker.

What do you think? Do you have any examples of technology not evolving much once it's been invented? Am I missing any giant leaps?