Re: Rate of change (was Re: 'a process of non-thinking called faith')

From: Philip Goetz (
Date: Thu Feb 16 2006 - 08:45:05 MST

On 2/15/06, Kevin Osborne <> wrote:
> The Internet, 94-2005. Not arpanet or bbs's, but
> usenet->www->im/p2p/web2.0. The current usage exceeds one billion
> citizens - i.e a 6th of world's population (from:
> another good page:
> From thousands to over a billion users in 12
> years is a fairly hefty technological+cultural shift, I would think.

Remember that I'm speaking only of change in "the West".

The Internet is the only great change since 1970. I believe the Internet
is the major reason that technological progress has slowed. This is
according to Rescher's law of logarithmic progress.

People have often said that technology is driven by war.
Actually, if you look at the technological achievements made
over a timeline, you find fewer advances made during wars.
This is because, during a war, a society's resources are
focused into a small number of scientific fields. Within
those fields, you get a large number of visible advances -
jets, radar, bombs, etc. But the output per dollar /within a field/
decreases as you invest more resources in it.

Similarly, the Internet (and now biotech) are sucking up all
the capital lately. Advances are made, but the decreasing
number of inventions per dollar means there are fewer advances
made than if investment were spread across a wide variety
of technologies.

Even given that, the change wrought by the Internet is still
less than the change brought by many techs in the past -
the RailNet, the HighwayNet, the Phone Net, the TV Net, for
example. Also, the adoption has been slower. The essential
technology for building home radios was invented in 1920,
and half of all US families had a radio by 1929. The essential
technology for the internet was invented in 1969.

> Science,Engineering,Nanotech, 94-2005. I'm not a super science geek,
> just a tech nerd, so I can't give an even near fair accout of this
> realm, but here's a few: X-Prize. Mars rovers. Carbon composite,
> Kevlar, Polymers. 45nm chip fab processes. Synthetics - drugs, sugar,
> textiles. Hubble, Cosmological imaging advances and theory changes.
> Climate modelling. Ever taller towers - Petronas, 101 etc. Huge
> infrastructure projects, especially in Asia. Buckytubes. The latest
> triumph sports bike. The stealth fighters/bombers.

This list is, first, inaccurate - almost everything on this list -
carbon composites, Kevlar, Buckytubes, polymers, synthetic drugs,
nutrasweet, texttiles, the Hubble, the stealth bomber, tall towers,
climate modeling - was discoverd, or invented and deployed, before
1994. More importantly, it is sad and pathetic compared to a list
made for the 1920s or 1930s. The Triumph sports bike? Please.

> Medicine,Biotech 94-2005. Again, I'm far from an expert: Researchers
> capturing video from cat's brains. Human genome. Cloning. Biotech.
> Cancer cures. Brain imaging. Transplant advances. everything as
> keyhole surgery. RNA interference. Gene therapies. Quadraplegics
> controlling mice via in-brain chips. plastic surgery. drugs for
> everything - the brain enchancing drugs are a great example
> (,11381,1528069,00.html).

Again, almost everything on this list is pre-1994, except the human
genome, neural implants, and RNAi.

> Captain Kirk is still as much a fanstasy now as he was then...

He was never my fantasy. :)

- Phil

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