In the Bollywood film “3 Idiots”, Rachoddas Shyamaldas Chanchand, a physics student played by Aamir Khan, ignores the arduous definition of a machine in the textbook and simply states “A machine is anything that reduces human effort and reduces time.” Elaborating on this I propose that every machine, every little snippet, sample, segment and specimen that we consider to be technology (from archaic obsidian hammers to contemporary power drills, from the chisel and stone tablet to the 3D smart phones of today) has been made for any combination of the following three purposes: to ameliorate a natural physiological, biological, biochemical or morphological vulnerability relative to our environment or other species, to assist in the execution of a labour or to delight and enthral us during our leisure. In a more concise form; we have been driven to modern civilisation by necessity, laziness and boredom.
Oh, and what a mighty civilisation it is. In the few seconds we have been on this Earth our innovation has been dynamic and limitless; the invention of the wheel, the domestication of horses, the revelation that is the internal combustion engine and with it the arrival of cars, ships and trains which, in turn, have fuelled the placement of extensive highways, canals and trains.
Fortunately – or unfortunately – our ambition is insatiable. Our progression continued as we leaped into the Space Age with the launch of the Sputnik 1and the triumphs of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in Space, in the shuttle ‘Vostok 1’. July 20 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended upon the moon – we know it as ‘The Cold War’ but it was so much more, it was a catalyst of necessity and ambition that fuelled “one giant leap for mankind”!
Presently we have the International Space Station and on it the Hubble Space Telescope, which in 2018 shall be replaced by the James Webb Telescope, which will be twice larger but half as heavy as Hubble. The New Telescope’s aim is to look through all problematic space dust (using infrared technology) and witness events from 13 Billion years ago ie to witness the birth of time. Astonishingly this is merely the surface of a gargantuan nebula of knowledge that runs into outer space. Fresh data from Hubble’s Cosmic Origins Spectograph was used to run simulations in a study by Ms Kollmeier of Carnegie Instituion for science. The study indicated that there is a 400% surplus of light in the universe (if quarsars and galaxies are the only sources of light), therefore indicating another unexplained and unknown source of light (perhaps decaying dark matter!). Along similar lines we have also recently discovered Gliese 832c, a planet capable of sustaining life.
From the exosphere, we return back to Earth, the home of 7 billion people (as of 2012) and all their interests, reveries and ambitions, which I believe combine to fuel our technological exploits. I shall begin by referring to the currently acclaimed marvel of 3D printing, with its ability to create the most intricate of apparatus. 3D printing will generate a multitude of technological breakthroughs. Already we hear of 3D printed makeup, prosthetics, and artwork (for the blind!). Even NASA has pushed the envelope by printing rocket nozzles. 3D printers have the capability to reduce prices immensely, throw economies to ruin or make them flourish. They may threaten the future of factories or inject them new vigour. Run by computers and software they can apply the most delicate of touches with great speed.
Computers themselves constitute another industry that will experience unprecedented growth. We are in an Age of Information, where computers affect our everyday lives, even here in Zimbabwe, E-banking has managed to give the economy a modicum of vitality. In the recent Indian elections, electronic voting machines were used to tabulate the votes of 1.2 billion people, these machines may resolve the highly criticised controversies of Zimbabwe’s electoral processes. Indeed computers and information processors shall play the largest role of all, they
will facilitate all further development; be it politicians giving speeches in your living room in 3D, the translation of ‘Chimp-English’ and the designing of the new world’s tallest building in Saudi Arabia, something which can only be rivaled by the design of China’s pollution cleaning skyscrapers.
Humanity also has a war against climate change to fight. With hydrogen cells, solar panels and wind turbines there are essentially no reasons (except political) for our tremendous Carbon emissions, indeed nations such as Germany have seen extreme success by ‘Going Green’.
Additionally unparalleled destruction of our rainforests has obliterated many species into extinction and continues to do so. Everyday an emphasis on recycling and sustainability is prevalent in many More Economically Developed Nations but this not so where the majority of the environmental devastation is occurring. It is in our LEDCs that we need this education and emphasis on “Going Green”. Does virtual communication hold the key? Perhaps there is a young, creative entrepreneur or humanitarian out there with the intelligence to provide MEDC level education in LEDCs through technology such as Skype.
I’ve still yet to say anything about Social Media, sport, fashion, war or medicine. Perhaps in 2092 we’ll all have genetically identical pigs for spare organs as seen in the movie “Mr Nobody”. We have already mapped the entire human genome!
The trends and aspects of technology are as infinite and obscured as the universe. We are constantly learning and developing, constantly proving Einstein’s theories to be correct… and then incorrect. It is evident that technology by nature is forever perpetuating, one development necessitates the other. If there is not a natural selection pressure we invoke one artificially through competition, however. Through this we have reached an era in which smart phones and the o-zone layer grow thinner whilst people do the opposite.