We humans are quite lucky to be living at this point in history as we will be the sole witnesses to some of the most earth shattering technological leaps we’ve ever created. Nanotechnology and its increasing integration in the field of medicine and genealogy, the development of artificial intelligence, the viral spreading of the Internet worldwide, the advances in robotics and a few other wild sciences that seem to come right out of Star Trek. All of these things we seem to take for granted, and one day we’re probably going to scoff at automobiles that still have a steering wheel in them. “You don’t have autopilot? Hmmm. How about a gas gauge? Do you still have one of those in your car? (chuckles)”
But that’s a little ways down the road in the future. What I’d like to focus on in this blog is the past, how we got here and how technology and its own evolution has coincided with the evolution of everything else in reality. This perspective requires you to be open to the theory of biological evolution and the age of the universe being in the billions of years (and not just a few thousand). If this is hard for you to do, that’s ok. A long time ago, people once believed the earth was flat and that the sun orbited us! (No kidding). Then Galileo and Copernicus came along to help clear up all that non-sense, though it took a while before everybody could calm down and accept their poignant observations as fact.
So lets presume the universe to be something close to 13 or 14 billion years old, and that it all started with this so-called Big Bang; a theoretical event which basically says the universe sprang forth from nothing for no reason in a single instant. A hard swallow, really. Science basically said, “Give us one free miracle and we will roll from there.” God could of well have stopped by and said, “Let there be light…” Same result in the end, more or less…
Everything in existence at that point in time was in the simplest form of matter; a super hot plasma. But then, after a few billion years, things began to cool and collect into what would later form atomic nuclei, and electrons could settle in to stable orbits. Getting cooler, the chemical and hydrogen bonds form (the basis of biology). So far, you can see that as the universe aged, it complexified ever so gradually creating newer more complex foundations for even more complex systems to emerge out of. Going through time in fast forward you would see a progression of foundations be laid one on another: Atomic Systems > Chemical Systems > Covalent Hydrogen Bond > Carbon Bond > Complex Chemistry that is pre-biotic or organic > macro-physical systems that we call membranes, gels, charge-transfer complexes > simple life (prokaryotes, un-nucleated DNA) > eukaryote, nucleated cells, complex colonies of cells > cell specialization > higher animals > social animals > complex social systems > technologies > globe-girdling electronically-based information-transfer-oriented-cultures, like ourselves. Whew!
Your own senses can confirm this feeling of all things getting more complex more quickly, and electronic technology is literally on the cutting edge of whatever new paradigm awaits our serendipitous discovery. But what’s more shocking is the realization that each progression and newer level of complexity arises at an accelerated, exponential rate.
Moore’s Law is often referenced as a general method of predicting how fast computer CPU’s are able to go in the future, in terms of clock cycles. The funny thing about this estimation (which is based partially upon previous and present technologies) is that it tends to create a upwardly curved line, indicating to us that the further you go, the faster newer forms of technology develop. And at this time there is no indication for such a trend or pattern of progression to ever slow down. The recent advancements made in the area of Quantum Computing seems to secure this telescopic tendency, as it is a precursor of something much larger than we’re willing pause and think about right now. It all just sounds too sci-fi for most of us. Then again, the computer itself was once an idea thought too ridiculous to pay much attention to. Yet here we are with our cell phones, Internet, e-mail and microwavable pizza.
You know, I don’t think it would be so naive to suggest that the coming advances in the realm of technology and life in general are actually the things we most often dismiss as never being able to achieve. I think it’s more naive to rule out such “impossibilities” based on dated scientific conventions, than it would be to say: “It’s not so much a matter of how or why, but when.” Although day-dreaming about the “why” part is still great fun.
I mentioned biology earlier with the intention of tying it in with technology. I’ll attempt to expand on that connection in my next blog, but here’s a spoiler for you: Biological Evolution is about a kind of conquest of dimensionality and modern technology is helping to extend and expand this conquest.
See you next week!