Thursday, January 20, 2005

Are today's technologies life-transforming?

Technologies people have experienced in the last 20 years like the PC, the Internet, cell phones, iPods, and personal video recorders have been life changing but have they been truly transformative? Despite the current rapid pace of technology change and innovation, it can be argued that some inventions in the late 1800s/early 1900s period had a more dramatic impact on people's lives - the advent of electricity, indoor plumbing, cars replacing horses, hospitals and more.

Examining the changes in the 100 years ago era and the present era suggests that the changes are of different types. While they are both the implementation of better tools to ease human labor, the 100 years ago changes were more about basic hardcore real world problems of comfort, health, sanitation and efficiency, building linearly to a more modern baseline. Our recent changes, and the ones coming, are more profound in a different way - they are about opening up non-linear possibilities in human thought space and creativity. There is an assumption that we are at baseline and improving exponentially from there. Today we have the privilege of thinking about what it is like to extend humanness, to travel off the Earth, to change and create new organisms from the DNA up and a myriad of other formerly almost unimaginable phenomenon.