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robert richards

Adult Education, learning facilitator, PolyTechnic Institute of Tasmania

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Tomorrows technology, all smoke and mirrors.

If need be, an average able individual could 30 years ago re-create a level of then technology, given suitable resources and time. Tomorrows technology will be impossible for the same skill leveled individual to reproduce. This suggests two things to me; firstly that technology is ever becoming an industry/knowledge for the elite and therefore few. Secondly, that any disaster that separates the elite few away from the common people, will mean a technological set back of perhaps centuries. I am refering to technology that is fast approaching providing a changed way of life, possibly replacing our current common technology. I feel this topic warrants some thoughtful discussion.


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    Jun 7 2012: you got the complexity a little off.

    in fact, even a 200 years old technology would be entirely impossible to reproduce during one man's lifetime. remember, 200 years ago, we already had cathedrals, ocean cruising ships, advanced glass works including telescopes and bifocal lenses, sophisticated clocks, steam engines, book printing and gas turbine.

    today's technology is not only not doable in a lifetime, it is not even understandable in a lifetime. probably even tracking the entire process is impossible in a lifetime. more to that, it is impossible in any time, since technology advances faster than a man can understand it. for an interesting experiment, imagine you are robinson on a resource rich island. try to make yourself a pizza. it is doable, but probably would take weeks to months. then try to make a piece of paper, a glass bottle and a proper pencil. you will probably fail.

    it also means that technology will not be a privilege of a few. nobody on the globe has the slightest chance to grasp it, so we are all in the same boots. but your knowledge is a part of this vast superstructure of knowledge, just as the knowledge of a top scientist. smaller part maybe, but just as necessary.
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      Jun 8 2012: Thank you for your reply Krisztian,
      You have taken a somewhat wide broom to my discussion. I am not suggesting one person could recreate entire technologies, I am saying an able person could recreate a level of technology in comparison to his current tech structure.
      It is understandable that your have misinterpreted my post as I perhaps stated a possible missleading description when I wrote "given suitable resources" I did not write "given raw materials". I appologise for not being more precise. Given this, your analogy with the pizza is also not relevent but...I could indeed easily make a pizza given suitable resources.

      If I where given suitable resources, I feel confident that I could indeed recreate things like a cathedral (large building, using mortor and stone), cruising ships (a boat structure for fishing or travel), telescopes and bifocal glasses (actually relatively easy since the raw ingrediants are abundant).

      Its not even really the fact of whether i did or did not recreate these objects but more about the fact that I have the knowedge to create these mechanical objects. Not so with tomorrows tech.

      Once again I appologise for your confusion.
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        Jun 8 2012: suitable resources given, everyone can assemble anything. i can put together a computer mouse if all i have to do is to assemble it from 4 parts. and it will continue to be that way. that is how a complex economy works. everyone adds one touch, completes one step in the seemingly infinite production process. it is not the future, it is the present. and i think it is working quite well.
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          Jun 8 2012: Hi Krisztian, once again you have misinterpreted the discussion thread. that's ok, perhaps I need lessons in succincness. Thank you for your input.
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        Jun 8 2012: i think i'm pretty much on topic. what you perceive as future, is actually the present, or even a 50 year past. and it didn't lead to the consequences you predicted
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          Jun 8 2012: Krisztian,
          I disagree with your interpretation of this discussion thread. I am not not disagreeing with your view as you see it. I appreciate your view and respect your right to an opinion. I am expecting you to display to me the same decency and respect.

          I am very happy to discuss my post within the parameters of the discussion. I will not be drawn into any broad sweeping discussion. You are welcome to continue posting your insights but please stay within the confines of this discussion thread. If you are unsure of the parameters of the topic I am more than please to re-state them for you.
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        Jun 8 2012: ??

        i just explained why my point is actually relevant to the discussion.
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          Jun 9 2012: Krisztian, I will make this even more basic and even touch on your argument, even though it isn't within the discussions range statement..

          Firstly, We are on the cusp on a new technological era, whilst still existing in the industrial era.

          Thousands of years ago the tech of that age was definable by everyday tools that a person made to survive each day eg; cutting tools, piercing tools and containment tools. As the centuries passed this tech evolved slowly due to nature of need, within small groups and the available resources. Eventually the groups turned into larger communities which required better means to secure everyday survival. Metals where developed and the tech of the day swung rapidly towards tools of protection and war. Gradually this has over a large amount of time, been the source of breakthrough tech but keep in mind that for the most part the tech was grass roots based and re-creation of that tech was easily achievable.

          Two hundred-so years ago that all changed. With the age of industrialization tech became more complex. Even though war was still at the forefront of breakthrough tech, a large drive for tech was aimed at the comfort of the general public. This meant that the tech was ever more used and generated/created for what you could call frivolous societal consumption. This tech consumption continues to reach ever new heights so that modern living today involves quite complex tech, eg; electricity, fossil fuels and massive agricultural industry to maintain huge communities.
          Today we have printed circuits largely in frivolous consumption devices but we still have mechanical tech for everyday liviing. Tomorrow's tech may use such tech in everyday survival items and have a totally different tech for frivolous consumption. The time is not far away when books and libraries will be a thing of the past, therefore info will only be attainable via the complex tech structures in place. If that tech dissapears....you join the dots from there
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        Jun 12 2012: 30 years ago we had had people in space.

        I don't think you have the knowledge to recreate a cathedral, or a seaworthy boat, nor do I. A cathedral is a great feat of architecture, not a collection of mortar and stone that you simply put together, even when given the blueprints. A seaworthy boat, able to withstand the elements is more complex then you think.
        Even a lens would be quite a challenge. First try making glass clear enough to function as one. Maybe you can get really pure crystals, but then you'll still have to cut and polish it very precisely if you want it to work.

        If we go even further back, there's piramids and other great achievements that go above the common knowledge of the citizens, and not something you figure out by simply thinking hard on it.
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          Jun 14 2012: It's interesting that you state you know not only the limits of my knowledge but also my creative abilities. I on the other hand admit to know nothing of the sort regarding yourself, anyone on this site or even such limits of my wife sitting at home. But I digress.

          I did not state that the object of a cathedral in entirety, just the knowledge to recreate a building of mortar and stone.

          I don't know why people like yourself are grandstanding about huge technological artifacts and stating that this is what the discussion is about.

          I did not state I could build a pyramid...but having seen a pyramid and knowing its basic design I could build an approximation.

          I feel for you if you cannot make a seaworthy boat given appropriate materials but I can assure you I could and most other capable persons would likewise be able to.

          If industrial works stopped now, there would be tons of mechanical devices laying around that one could make into something else in an effort to retain the current tech. Electricity would be easy to generate from household mechanical devices, as an example, as long as you had running water nearby etc...

          But grab an iPad and try and make something out of that! A lot more difficult and beyond my capabilities because the are no user parts in it.

          This was the intent of my range statement.
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        Jun 18 2012: I'm not stating that the discussion is about huge technological artifacts, I'm just saying 'old' technology is more complex then people think. Creating something is more then just putting the materials together.

        Building a structure out of mortar and stone you'll need to know where and how to support the roof and walls. A seaworthy boat doesn't only have to float and not leak, it also has to withstand a rough sea. Back then there weren't any engines, so you'll need to create an efficient sail too.

        Next to the in depth knowledge to build these things you'll need tools to shape the materials and connect them in a secure way.

        After a disaster happens there won't be stacks of readily made parts and tools with an in depth blueprint and a crew of able bodied workmen at conveniently placed locations.

        Using household materials to make some inefficient watermill is not retaining the current technology. The technology we have now is already over the point you're talking about.

        Anyway, that's the risk of high technology. The higher it is, the more difficult it is to make.
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          Jun 20 2012: Thank you for your reply Sander,

          I appreciate your point of view, I do not agree however.

          I have never stated that a person could re-create todays tech in its entirety or efficiency, I feel this point is where you and I are banging heads together.

          The artifacts that were have digressed into discussing...themselves have no real relevance.

          ...So what if I made a leaking small building with mortor and stone...a small barely adequate seaworthy boat for travel. The quality of the items is not of importance. Only the knowledge to attempt them and the user friendly materials left laying around (books being one of those materials) is important.

          I realise that the tech is beggining to be available now (albiet in relatively small pockets of societal consumerable products) but it is not yet encompassing all of modern living.

          I have no doubt that in the near future (20 years or so) mechanical devices (as main stream tech) would have all but dissapeared...this is why my thoughts have turned onto this scenario possibility and formed a discussion statement...because it is around the corner.

          You make a point of using the word dissaster...I have already framed what that dissaster would be....the loss of the tech builders.
          If that dissaster happened tomorrow, on likely place I would look for usable parts would be the local rubbish dump or scrap yard...but of course their would be plentiful other places to find exacting materials...

          I do agree that tech is more than its parts...but I suggest that the biggest part of any tech is the knowlege and ability to use it. Today we have it...tommorrow not as much.

          I also realise that high tech is complex...this is at the very crux of my discussion statement.

          Thank you for your interest.

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