The Shape of Future Technology

I.  Completion of the Electronic Revolution.

This is strange to realize, and perhaps embarrassing to a technophile, but electricity has taken centuries to fully penetrate human activity and still hasn’t yet completed the process.  From lab experiments to light show and telegraphs, then to interior lighting and household appliances, then to portable equipment, electricity still has a ways to go in the 21st century: Our automobiles, motorycles, ships, aircraft, most of our trains, much our industrial infrastructure, lawn mowers, chainsaws, and portable generators are still powered with combustion of fossil fuels, and most of the electricity we generate is created also created through combustion.

It will be a long process, but an inevitable one: Electricity is simply too efficient and fundamental over the long-term, and will become the standard basis of our technology in this century or shortly thereafter.  Everything but few very specialized applications will be electrically-powered, and refueled via whatever process is most efficient for the application – recharging, battery swaps, continuous power supply through direct contact or through distant induction, etc.  Even rockets designed to function already in space will become electric, either as solar-electric or nuclear-electric propulsion.  Electricity, and electric-powered technology will become more pervasive than even today’s gadget-hungry culture can imagine, interlocking and forms
of application and potential activity that are just barely hinted at in today’s world.

II.  Photon: The Next Step

But once you have an economy dense with electronics in every facet of human life – not only in information, but in transportation and industrialization, and everyday actions of life – where do you fundamentally go from there?  As we’ve been doing with electronics for decades, you could just keep trying to shrink them and empower them more, but eventually you run into points of least return where the cost of further miniaturization or operating efficiencies yields greater and greater fixed costs of manufacutring, and eventually you reach convergence where there is no longer any benefit to continuing that way: You have reached Optimum with electronic technology.

But electrons are merely carriers for the true holders of electromagnetic power, the photon, whose potential we have already begun to explore in the optical fiber industry.  As with electricity, the incipient uses for photonics are entirely in communications and cryptography, as they can produce tremendously high information thoroughput via fiberoptic pipelines.  But photonics will not be limited to communications – it will burgeon outward, as uses for light (e.g. lasers) exapnd and develop more skillful applications that compete with or displace the more traditional electronic competents.  Some of this is already happening, with traditional computer chips in some cases being replaced with optical chips.

Eventually, the fundamentalness of the photo in the process will allow rsearchers to extricate the extraneous drawbacks from the electron from related processes and work wit the naked particle by itself.  A that point, light-based processes can begin to percolate outward into the industrial systme, replacing electronic mechanics and services in the same ways that the electronics had replaced simpler, mechanical ones.  But once you master light itself, many new things become possible, that I won’t bothere to enumerate – use your imagination.  To fly the skies on light ,to walk on light, to breathe light, to be enveloped in cities not so much powered by light as composed of it, in the long term…such dreams will come true.  They will because they must, because technology follows a pattern according to its nature.

III.  The Higgs Boson

And from there, what of deeper natures? What of, say, the Higgs Boson that gives particles mass?  This is pure speculation at this point, but is not conceivable that this would be the gateway to transforming mass and radiation back and forth into each other?  To arbitrarily manipulate mass and inertia to permit absurb manuevers and cause people and craft to survive under extreme forces?  Who knows what can come of them?  But if you read articles talking about how technology is stalled, know that the man who wrote the article is a myopic fool  Technology is converging as ever before, and we wouldn’t know what comes out the other side until it does.  But in things like Tesla Motors and SpaceX, we have just the very first, very humble wave of world-changing innovations.

I wade through the morass of useless gadgets and software trivia on places like Wired and C-Net looking for a hint of something truly significant on the horizon, and every once in a while I see a hint – just a glimmer – and know that the future arises.  Those looking for a Singularity will never get one – there will always be plenty of things for each of us to understand at any given time – but the whole thing keeps moving forward, like a living thing unto itself.  This is humanity, this vast ecosystem of technological capability – not politics, not the culture, but life force where energy harvested from the Sun gives live to a tree of new processes both organic and inorganic, some of which resemble what we think of as human life.  Humanity is already more than it can conceive, and will only become still more.

The path of economic transition from mechanical energy to electronics has been long and intricat, and th path to photonics will be likewise.  In the more distant future, perhaps there will be a similar transition involving the Higgs boson.  The path is long and wondrous, but we can see it unfolding before us.

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