Saturday, February 12, 2011

Weathering Thru Tech Days...

One Bridge We'll Never See Again Quite The Same

... or what is the true cost and benefit of technology

I am generally not very comfortable with making public statements on issues not directly relevant to technology and science. But I guess I need to clarify where the name of the blog comes from. Besides, it is still relevant to science and technology, albeit on a purely philosophical level.

Quite often I find myself wondering if the value/cost ratio of that flat tv on my wall is really that good as I thought it was when I struck that "submit order" button. Over the years I increasingly came to conclusion that it is not. And not in the sense that I had problems balancing my checkbook a month after when I had to put up with that credit card bill.

There's a lot of hidden costs both in future and present associated with "techno revolution" we are immersed in.

Indeed, we pay everywhere, every minute without realizing it, just for the privilege of having that Droid X in our pocket. We spend a lot of time developing something; and very often we don't enjoy the time spent. We spend time talking to people while we'd really be spending time with our kids or talking to somebody else instead. We don't get to create stuff we really like instead. Gosh, just mere thought of how much of my productive life I have spent on creating things I personally could quite easily live without, makes me sick. 

And by spending all that time, we only create things that will pollute, spend energy (=pollute again, =create higher health costs), cause climate change, in other words will create even more compound future costs for our children to pay. We find it is so easy to borrow from our children, don't we? What kind of economy is that where we pay only fraction of the real cost and expect "future administrations" to pick up the deficit? What kind of human robs his kids?

And that luxury car navigation option, is it really worth not averting those couple food riots our children would have to live through?

And all that war tech?.. Better not even get me started on this...

In my opinion, very few tech products and benefits of tech revolution are actually worth their cost (their real cost, not just those virtual numbers assigned to our accounts we give away to have them).

Well, my Nikon gear may be one happy exception as sometimes I feel as if their craftsmanship helps me to work on my soul development. A little stretch, but...

A Wait By The Glass Ocean

Though perhaps there's one redemption for having all that technological progress. Which is most (and perhaps the only) worthy product, and that's the technology itself.

Chances are our technology is just not yet "smart" enough to produce anything really useful. But it still may become that.

The hope is that at some point we could achieve an 'ubertech' which would provide benefits finally far exceeding the real cost. Like colonizing another worlds. Or keeping our planet in balance. Or transforming ourselves into completely different state of thought or biology. Reaching out to other cultures out there, after all. Who knows what else, something we can't even imagine today.

Those are uberproducts, uberbenefits, coming with a real value which is hard to underestimate. Those benefits are so uber that it doesn't really matter much how much it costs, the only that  matters is that at the end of the day we still have enough to pay for them. Like a heart transplant. That hope redeems the tech and all its today's overhead. If we still will be able to afford it...

And the reason why we may not be able to afford it might be because we will have overspent on nurturing the pre-tech (such as the one we have today).

Fort Ross

So it's a balancing act: it seems that ubertech predicates itself on pre-tech, along with its pre-benefits, pre-nonsense and pre-waste. But the more of the wasteful, nonsensical benefits we have, the more we borrow from the future capacity and jeopardize the path of reaching that cost/benefit ratio tipping point where everything caused by pre-waste could eventually be rectified and attended to.

The bottom line is, we humans, not just present, but also  some past and all future generations collectively, are doing nothing else but weathering the technology as we have it today, the early tech days. Whether we will be able to bridge the gap between all the costs and future uber-benefits, is anybody's guess at this point. The danger that we over-borrow is very real. It's a blizzard and it yet remains to be seen if we can weather through it without freezing to death. I am just trying to remember that we need the pre-tech but not necessarily the product.

And whenever I work on a technology these days, I try to at least ask myself a question whether it has even a slightest chance to be a pre-tech for the 'ubertech', whether some part of it could be used in another part that could be part of another part of that eventual ubertech that delivers us.

Or it is just yet another one of those stupid dead-end buzzword technologies people use just to add a markup on the price tag for their skills.

iPad? I don't care for no stinking iPad!..

I do care, however, about the fact that somebody out there is still seeking for the next technological leap, and that gigantic evolutionary algorithm with voluntary fitness model force assigning evolutionary fitness scores expressed in dollars and pennies, pence, shillings and cents based on millions of factors.. For in the end it is all about evolution. And evolution, as we know, is all about survival. So we better not forget what it is really all about: a search for the future. No less, no more.

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