Technological progress: slower than media let you believe
Part 1: MHT
Every now and then a technology advancement brings a term, like Blockchain or AI, into the spotlight. Especially when one of the major tech companies is backing it, this new term gets the talk of the town. In the internet-era this means that the news goes world-wide viral. When this happens the term jumps on the Media-Hype-Train (MHT).
Such a hot term stays on the train for a few seasons, in which everything is news at the drop of a hat. After that, it slowly fades away, because it becomes a given or the technology just didn’t take off yet. Mostly the latter.
When something is on the MHT a lot of articles are accompanied by the believe that the new technology will forever change our lives. This belief have some underlying assumptions:
1) We live in an ever-changing, rapid evolving technological world. When we blink with our eyes, we miss the train. We must keep up.
2) The new technology is on that fast train of revolutionary advancements. So these are things we need to chase.
3) There is an exponential growth behind the speed of development. The train goes faster and faster.
Actually the opposite is true.
It’s easy to see why people believe in this idea. Not only do the media and tech companies believe in this as well (as they live from these hypes), but we also see the prove in our hands. Literally, because there is our smartphone.
At least this device became in a flash central in our lives. However, when you think of it little longer, you realize that the development of the tech in this device started long time ago. This goes back to most of us are born. It took that long to miniaturize the technology and make the tech accessible for consumers.
Fundamental technology improvements are principally slow (at least on the scale of a lifetime). That’s why after the hype there is a phase of disappointment/enlightenment as the hype cycle of Gartner states. But even this hype cycle doesn’t fully acknowledge that the road of real growth is rocky and long (and doesn’t really have a begin and end). It’s so long that it crosses generations.
Take the internet. It started in the seventies by the US Department of Defense. Also in the seventies guys like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were pioneering new hardware and operating systems. Some big breakthroughs were the Personal Computer by IBM (1981), the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau (1989) and Apples iPhone (2007). All of these and a lot of smaller improvements lead to the digital revolution we now have at our fingertips.
Shape of you
Do we really need to keep up with this technological progress? Not at all. It arrives very slow and as with all good technology, when it arrives it is shaped after humans. Current day technology is not on the level of stone-age tools like knives and hammers yet. Tools which we use are an extension of ourselves, but the new tech is slowly (very slowly) getting there.
When we look more on a smaller scale, the real pace of improvements tends to be slow. Not in months like hypes, but in decades. To give some examples of areas with a lot of development in recent years:
· Electric cars
· Autonomous driving
· Virtual Reality
· Artificial Intelligence
All above technologies are or have been on the MHT. For example IoT and virtual reality a few years ago. Autonomous driving and AI are riding the hype today. On a closer look all technologies have its roots decades ago.