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Why Technology Accelerates

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Technology is certainly moving at a fast pace. And the current surge isn’t just a temporary blip. Technology is accelerating, and has been throughout the course of human history. This article explains why technology accelerates, why it’s going to continue to accelerate, and what this means for the future.

How many inventions can you think of that were first made in the first decade of the first century AD? No, I can’t think of any either, and not just because it was a long time ago. There just wasn’t much technological or scientific progress at that time.

What about the first decade of the 20th century? That’s easier. The Zeppelin airship. The first modern vacuum cleaner. The first aeroplane. The vacuum tube diode. Bakelite.

And what about the first decade of the 21st century? The list is long, and you may be surprised by some of them. The iPod. The iPhone. The iPad. 3D printers. Android smartphones. Wi-Fi. Virtual keyboards. Self-driving cars. 4G mobile networks. Blu-ray. The Kindle. YouTube. Facebook. Twitter. The Nintendo Wii. Google Maps. Google Translate. Artificial hearts and livers. Face transplants. Self-cleaning windows. Invisibility cloaking. Graphene. The fuel-cell bike.

That’s just a few – I don’t want to bore you. Technology is clearly accelerating rapidly – from a crawl in biblical times, to a jog in the 20th century, to a sprint now.

The reason for this is simple. The more technology you have at your disposal, the easier it is to invent new things. Imagine trying to build a computer using only Stone Age tools. Exactly.

So, if technology is accelerating, what happens as it gets faster and faster? What happens when a significant new invention comes along not every year or every month, but every day? Every hour? Every minute? At that point, who knows what may happen?

A lot of people believe that such a rapid rate of development is going to be reached around the middle of this century. They call this the Technological Singularity. When technology advances that quickly, almost anything that obeys the laws of physics may become possible.

If this prospect excites you, or alarms you (or both), you might like to read more about it. Being prepared for this might be the smartest thing you ever did.

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About Steve Morris

Steve morris writes for tech review sites S21.com, RecommendedBuys and expresses his personal opinions about life in general at Blog Blogger Bloggest.
  • Rob Knaggs

    While I agree with the general thesis about the unprecedented pace of technological development, it’s a little unfair to compare the inventions of the 21st century with those of the 1st (or, as the author claims, the absence of them).
    For starters, I have to question which of the early 21st century inventions the author lists are truly revolutionary and time-resilient. How many of them will our descendants in 2000 years’ time actually know about? On the contrary, the vast majority will long since have been superseded and forgotten about.
    The same is likely true of the 1st century. Roman civilization, as we know, was highly technological (one of their inventions from that period that has stood the test of time is the buttress dam), and it’s likely that a host of things were invented that eventually went the way of chastity belts, sedan chairs, semaphore, steam-powered cars, Filofaxes and the like, and were lost to history.

    • Steve Morris

      Rob, you may be right about that. It’s quite probable that in 2,000 years nobody will remember what Twitter or an iPhone was. But that’s surely because they are going to be replaced very rapidly with even better inventions. Indeed, it is this ever-shortening lifespan of inventions that characterises the rate of growth.

      Going back to the year zero was an attempt to put this in historical context, but you could equally look at more recent statistics like the total number of patent applications per year – which follows an exponential growth curve since 1840.

      Besides, statistics aside, there are good explanations for why technological and cultural progress accelerates.