How do we know for sure that technology will continue to advance?

  • #26
31
0
it would be interesting to see what models have been created to guess at what will be technically possible at certain points in the future.
 
  • #27
Office_Shredder
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
3,750
99
it would be interesting to see what models have been created to guess at what will be technically possible at certain points in the future.
Historically we are really bad at guessing what technology will allow us to do. For example: Flying cars, robots.
 
  • #28
167
0
It seems that with the rapid advancement in computer technology that it will not be long before Joe Snuffy in his garage will have a computer at his disposal that will allow for experimentation and simulation that was simply not available to many in the last few decades. I think that this will allow for some more homemade tech jumps in the near future. All it should take is some reduction in the price for simulation software and we should see some more interesting home grown invention.
 
  • #29
Integral
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,198
55
It seems that with the rapid advancement in computer technology that it will not be long before Joe Snuffy in his garage will have a computer at his disposal that will allow for experimentation and simulation that was simply not available to many in the last few decades. I think that this will allow for some more homemade tech jumps in the near future. All it should take is some reduction in the price for simulation software and we should see some more interesting home grown invention.
I hate to tell you this but before Joe Snuffy can create even a sorta decent game he will need college level knowledge of programming and math. If Joe wants to push the envelope of our current state of knowledge then he will need a PhD in at least 1 field. With out that he is not able to think outside the box because he has no idea where the box is. That means he needs a college education. Without that, I am sure he can learn to play a mean game of solitaire.
 
  • #30
because each advancement creates new problems that we think we can solve by the next advancement?
 
  • #31
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,213
174
One interesting phenomena today: Biopunks

....Biopunk is a synonym for biohacker, a term used to describe a hobbyist who experiments with DNA and other aspects of genetics.[1][2] A biohacker is similar to a computer hacker who creates and modifies computer software or computer hardware as a hobby (i.e. "wetware hacker"), but should not be confused with a bioterrorist whose sole intent is the deliberate release of viruses, bacteria, or other germs used to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants (in the same way a computer hacker should not be confused with the more popular yet erroneous use of the term, describing someone who spreads computer viruses or breaks into computers systems for malicious purposes.).[6] Using a laptop computer, published gene sequence information, and mail-order synthetic DNA, some promoters and critics of biohacking argue that just about anyone has the potential to construct genes or entire genomes from scratch, although this has never occurred.[7]...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biopunk

I know I posted a news article or two about these folks somewhere around here, but I didn't spot anything. .
 
  • #32
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,213
174
Abstract One of the main aims of synthetic biology is to make biology easier to engineer. Major efforts in synthetic biology are made to develop a toolbox to design biological systems without having to go through a massive research and technology process. With this “de-skilling” agenda, synthetic biology might finally unleash the full potential of biotechnology and spark a wave of innovation, as more and more people have the necessary skills to engineer biology. But this ultimate domestication of biology could easily lead to unprecedented safety challenges that need to be addressed: more and more people outside the traditional biotechnology community will create self-replicating machines (life) for civil and defence applications, “biohackers” will engineer new life forms at their kitchen table; and illicit substances will be produced synthetically and much cheaper. Such a scenario is a messy and dangerous one, and we need to think about appropriate safety standards now.
http://www.springerlink.com/content/838234qr720218w8/
 
  • #33
100
0
With out that he is not able to think outside the box because he has no idea where the box is. That means he needs a college education.
You can't think outside the box unless you know where the box is in the first place, so at the very least get a basic education. I like the way you word things.
 
  • #34
740
2
I hate to tell you this but before Joe Snuffy can create even a sorta decent game he will need college level knowledge of programming and math. If Joe wants to push the envelope of our current state of knowledge then he will need a PhD in at least 1 field. With out that he is not able to think outside the box because he has no idea where the box is. That means he needs a college education. Without that, I am sure he can learn to play a mean game of solitaire.
fortunately there's a free university out there will professors always eager to to "teach" and a pool of vast knowledge limited only by the imagination- it's called "google" and it's open 24/7.

Someone always has the answer- you just have to ask the question. There is no box anymore.
 
  • #35
378
2
fortunately there's a free university out there will professors always eager to to "teach" and a pool of vast knowledge limited only by the imagination- it's called "google" and it's open 24/7.

Someone always has the answer- you just have to ask the question. There is no box anymore.
I disagree.
 
  • #36
DaveC426913
Gold Member
18,549
2,026
I disagree.
Obviously it is not a rigorous statement; it is food for thought. And an actionable option.
 
  • #37
Office_Shredder
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
3,750
99
I disagree.
It's basically true. Whether the answer you get is given by someone with the right answer is another topic entirely.
 
  • #38
167
0
People are capable of teaching themselves if they are willing to seek out the knowledge. Not saying that there is anything wrong with college, but having a PhD really has nothing to do with the understanding of a subject. It is a certificate that says you have mastered your subject. A person would be capable of learning everything that a college student did under his/her own study. This is in no way an argument against the merits of earning a PhD.

I know that you do not need a degree to operate a CAD program and I imagine unless you are trying to create software from scratch you don't need a degree to operate most test software. It helps, but it is not necessary. My CAD class was three semester hours in a single semester and I still spent most of my time looking up tips on Google. If someone wanted to learn on their own it would be fairly easy. Now if you want to be employed that is a different matter...
 
  • #39
167
0
I will point out that we are talking about the advancement of technology not about the theory behind it.
 
  • #40
Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
18,704
1,710
fortunately there's a free university out there will professors always eager to to "teach" and a pool of vast knowledge limited only by the imagination- it's called "google" and it's open 24/7.

Someone always has the answer- you just have to ask the question. There is no box anymore.
Or one has to sift through the chaff and discern the right answer from many wrong answers.
 
  • #41
167
0
It is an art withen itself finding factual information on the internet.

Ask Yahoo, for people too lazy to google something themselves.
 
  • #42
jambaugh
Science Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
2,190
238
Here is the problem I see. 400yrs ago you became a research grade scientist by reading a handful of books. That is all there was, you could learn enough to be "state of the art" is a summer. Now it takes 12 yrs of elementary education to get ready for 8 to 12 yrs of university work. So now it takes more like 20yrs of education to be come "state of the art". This combined with the trend that most major breakthroughs are made by the 25 - 35 age group does seem to but a limit on our ability to advance technology. Just when will these factors kick in? Get out the magic 8 ball.
Seems like you are making an exaggerated comparison. Certainly "you became a research grade scientists by reading a handful of books" but part of that 12 yrs of elementary education is a.) learning to read, and b.) learning math proficiently enough to read the same "handful of books".

I would also point out the inefficiency in the public school system. The percentage of people obtaining math, science, and reading literacy has gone way up but at the cost of how far they get by 12th grade. I would argue that taking the same far end of the Bell curve of students as those educated 400 years ago, and you could get them up to a "12th grade" reading level in 6 years and up to current general Bac. of Sci. level math and science by 12th grade. We don't reach this now because of low standards and stepping students through calender timed curriculum instead of letting them leap ahead or pause and remediate at their individual developmental pace.

Call this level a baseline adult competency:
Basic linear algebra and multivariable calculus, Newtonian physics, undergrad E-mag, and a touch of relativity and QM.

This I think your average adult could obtain by age 21 and your top 10% by age 18, with prodigies (<1%?) getting it by 16. Add to that the 50 years now of adult life with a clear active mind (as compared to the average lifespan 400 years ago). [BTW there is a certain developmental stage reached between 6th and 9th grade before which children have a great deal of trouble with the abstraction needed to deal with variable expressions.]

Now from this baseline comes the race to reach state-of-the-art a la graduate level studies and real world experience.

I appreciate your point and some years back I had a long conversation over a couple of beers with a fellow graduate student. It worried me. I used the analogy of (say on a flat earth) a would be explorer having to spend your whole life traveling to reach the frontier only to die of old age before you could begin hacking out new territory. But I had an epiphany of sorts when I realized that as we incorporate new knowledge we actually over time integrate it into our language. Remember our minds think and reason with language.

Now this integration may happen more slowly than technology advances today but we're still riding a wave of innovation spurred by the growth of freedom and individual civil liberties which allows the affluence and individual creativity necessary for such innovation. Supposing we don't backslide into a Socialism/Environmentalism anti-science "theocracy" I think we shall reach an equilibrium wherein specialized sciences and mathematics will advance at a steady pace with the sum of knowledge and its application to technology growing hyper-exponentially. Each specialization will evolve symbolic language which incorporates what before took decades of study into its syntax and semantics. Learning that same knowledge will then take a year. Add to this computer and information systems which allow an individual to pass on the tedious details of symbol manipulation to a machine and I don't see a limit on an individual's ability to "get to the frontier" and understand the state-of-the-art in knowledge or technology.

Personally I think the best direction to push funding to make this happen is in space exploration and eventual colonization. We ought to let people go hungry (for lack of social welfare programs) before we cut the space program. With space exploration/colonization we not only open up the bottleneck of resource and population limits we also gain broader perspective of experience from which to advance understanding both of nature and of ourselves.
 
  • #43
167
0
Personally I think the best direction to push funding to make this happen is in space exploration and eventual colonization. We ought to let people go hungry (for lack of social welfare programs) before we cut the space program. With space exploration/colonization we not only open up the bottleneck of resource and population limits we also gain broader perspective of experience from which to advance understanding both of nature and of ourselves.
Absolutely, if serious private space exploration was achieved I think it would cause an exponential growth in technology. People need to be excited about space again.
 
  • #44
Integral
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,198
55
I find myself differentiating between advances in technology, and advancing the body of knowledge of mankind. You can built many neat little techie devices that do nothing to advance the body of knowledge. If fact neat little techie devices are all from concepts well within the body of knowledge of man.

jambaugh,
I disagree with you, I do not believe that a BS (which is the level of knowledge you refer to) makes anyone a research grade scientist. A BS makes you a technician working for a research grade scientist.

For the most part the low hanging fruit of science has been picked, we must now work harder and harder for each advance. It is only going to harder as knowledge accumulates with the passage of time.

As far as google goes, LOL. The only people who think that works is the people trying it. Those of us who field the questions from those people Know that it is not. What you get that way is a smattering of disconected facts. You do not get a depth of understanding or the bigger picture.
 
  • #45
100
0
fortunately there's a free university out there will professors always eager to to "teach" and a pool of vast knowledge limited only by the imagination- it's called "google" and it's open 24/7.

Someone always has the answer- you just have to ask the question. There is no box anymore.
Keep in mind there's also the quality of education from Google. Anyone can post something on Google. I never believe something just because it's in writing or in a book. It's more reasonable to look at the source, and peer-review journals are better. Since what you learn in academia is peer-reviewed by other experts, it's as a general rule more credible. Then of course formal education only correlates with innovation to an intermediate level and then after that there's no correlation (well actually depending upon the area you're in). People who are great at innovation usually have more self-education than formal education. Having a variety of sources more than just what you learn in class can help you be more flexible thinker. However, having a basic level of "formal education" is desired, because there's the correlation to the intermediate level.

Einstein was thought to be lazy by his professors and he didn't go to class much and had his own agenda. However, he was very very self-educated, would browse through Science Encyclopedias like crazy when he was a child, and still had some formal education, a "doctorate degree". Although he did poorly in some subjects and failed some entrance exams, he did extremely extremely well in other areas of academia. It's not like he was an idiot with no education.
 
  • #46
jambaugh
Science Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
2,190
238
I find myself differentiating between advances in technology, and advancing the body of knowledge of mankind. You can built many neat little techie devices that do nothing to advance the body of knowledge. If fact neat little techie devices are all from concepts well within the body of knowledge of man.
I'd stratify further. There is basic new knowledge i.e. foundational research in mathematics and physics, and fundamental applied science (e.g. materials engineering, process control), and then component technology, (e.g. better processor designs, blue laser diodes, better sensors...) and finally commercial and consumer technology (e.g. Wii, 3g phones, solar panels, ...)

But things can mix across hierarchy boundaries, new political paradigms based on social networking over the internet, mathematics of distributed processes, quantum computing using MRI, robotic surgery. A new "gadget" can surreptitiously create a new foundational topic of mathematics or new area of fundamental applied science.

Its like in evolution. A particular genome may not be a "survival trait" in an absolute sense but become one subject to evolutionary progression of other species. Flowers are useless without the pollinating animals.

Certainly fundamental physics are not so conditional but I assert that much of what we think of as fundamental knowledge is not just discovered, it is created.
jambaugh,
I disagree with you, I do not believe that a BS (which is the level of knowledge you refer to) makes anyone a research grade scientist. A BS makes you a technician working for a research grade scientist.
That was not my assertion. The general BS (level) was a baseline before one starts specialized training in a specific field. Said training may indeed incorporate working as a technician for a research grade scientist. My main assertion was that the average Joe (or Jane) could achieve this level by age 18 if they so desired and worked hard and had proper educational environment. (several if's here of course).
For the most part the low hanging fruit of science has been picked, we must now work harder and harder for each advance. It is only going to harder as knowledge accumulates with the passage of time.
Here again I don't quite agree. We imagine say Thomas Edison milling out his gramophone or discovering thermonic emissions of electrons in his light bulbs all in a "primitive" "garage" type laboratory. But there was a lot of background advancement e.g. basic chemistry, materials technology which allowed him to produce these where e.g. in Ancient Rome or Egypt you couldn't build a lightbulb without quite a bit of reinvention of subsidiary tech.

Who's to say some smart young man running simulations on his garage supercomputer couldn't stumble across a cure for cancer or theory of quantum gravity or innovative means to store energy. More likely some innovation we can't imagine until he shows us and we say "Oh! Why didn't I think of that!" You speak of low hanging fruit but there is the implicit assumption of a fixed ground level. What is out of reach today may become tomorrows "low hanging fruit".

I don't say this is necessarily so by any means. You may be quite right. But history is full of pronouncements that we've plumbed the depth of available fundamental science and all that is left now is to refine its application. Then along comes some joker discovering radioactivity and we're off again.
 
  • #47
167
0
Imagine if someone was to create a functional quantum computer that is in every household. I imagine then that quantum physics would probably venture its way into senior level high schools once it was common place enough.

Imagine if fusion energy becomes commonplace and we use it for traveling/colonizing the solar system. I think that the fundamentals of this tech would probably become common knowledge of sorts. To those who were interested. This is to say that those who don't know how a light bulb or combustion engine works today would bother to learn this stuff in the future anyway.
 

Related Threads for: How do we know for sure that technology will continue to advance?

Replies
3
Views
1K
Replies
16
Views
921
Replies
28
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
1
Views
659
  • Last Post
2
Replies
35
Views
5K
  • Last Post
Replies
18
Views
3K
Top