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A definition of technology

Birth of Biology
Birth of Tools
Birth of Machines

Dumb Machines
Explosive growth of technology

Intelligent Computers
Virtual Experiments
Ethics and Direction

What will come, after the technological wave?


My definition of technology
Technology is about knowledge. Experimenting, learning, storing and sharing what has been learned, and applying cumulative knowledge.

Although the biology of people has hardly changed, the way we live has changed a lot in the last hundreds of years, mainly due to technology. Unlike other animals, we don't live the exact life that our parents lived any more. We have technology growing among us, that changes for every generation, giving many old people a hard time because most can't catch up with all that changes.

So, technology is not just about mechanical machines. It can be applied everywhere, it can for example be biological also, or non material information technology.

I find the word technology hard to define. Many it's just a stage in evolution with many gray areas. Robot species of the future may find it had to believe that "these biological humans" have created them, just like how we have a hard time accepting that we started as primeval soup or something. It's only logical though, that some combinations of simple elements create stable and more complex elements.


Birth of Biology
Somehow, biological live on Earth came to be and started to evolve. Maybe life started here because the conditions where right at that time. Or maybe life came to Earth from somewhere else in this universe. Or maybe both.
The number of Earth-like planets in this universe is incredible high, making it very unlikely that Earth is the only place with life. And if other types of life are possible... Well, lets go into space and find out. The creation of life in an expanding universe might just be as logical as the creation of ice crystals when water cools down.

Birth of Tools
People first started to create & use simple tools they made from natural available materials like: stone, wood, leather. Some other animals also use tools, but only the most simple tools like a stick or a stone. To use more complex tools, one needs more complex brains.
What all things did humans develop in the early years?
- Farming (knowledge of: seasons, plants, animals. plough)
- Weapons (bow & arrow, spear, sword, fire)
- Transport (the wheel, boat, using animals and wind, roads)
- Fire (heating the home, light, cooking, melting metal, making glas)
- Language (talking, writing, calculating)
- Houses (personal and shared protected spaces)
- Clothes (leather, cloth, thread)
- Chemicals (color, poision, glue, gunpowder)
- Storage (food, pots, boxes)
Oké, these kinds of things. This is not a complete list.

Birth of Machines
When did people go beyond the simple tools and created the first machines? A machine is a complex construction of parts, that can do a task it was designed for autonomously. Being Dutch I'd say the windmill was the first machine. Point is that many people "gave birth" to machines, more or less simultaneously in history, all over the world, even without being in direct contact.
The energy source and storage is of importance for a machine to run:
- Human and animal muscles.
-The steam engine, then the internal combustion engine, and electricity.
- Wind and flowing water. Burning wood, coal, veen, oil, crease. Batteries.
All kinds of materials were used to build machines with, but especially metals.
The millions of machines invented have had huge effect on the way we live.


Dumb Machines
The first machines had hardly or no brains. Sometimes mechanically, like an automatic pressure valve, or an automatic speed control. Machines had to be constantly monitored and guide by a specialized human. Nursed. Then came the microproccesor, the computer. Computers are impressive tools, but they are dumb, party because they're not powerful enough yet, but mainly because people haven't written the right software yet.
The biggest technological problem of today, is that machines can do a lot, and people know what they want the machines to do, but they can't communicate, causing a dramatic drag on progress. To get the machine to work well, you'll often need a specialist, but these are hard to find, and expensive.

Explosive growth of technology
Technological developments haven't come to a rest yet (2011). The opposite is true: developements are accelerating. When placing the technological growth in the time line of the Earth's history, it's like an explosion. The state of technology today is like an embryo, rapidly evolving, soon to show its new born character. The time of a technological singularity. Strange things will come. But next, the acceleration will start to slow down, to maybe one day coming to a stop. What wave will come after the technological wave?

Depending on technology, too much.
It's a scary period if you ask me. I'm not afraid of technology, but our dependence on technology is now so incredible high, that all the modern societies will collapse if we lose it. And there is one way: an electro magnetic solar storm can burn all micro chips.
Without micro chips:
- No computers, which are build in everything.
- No food, no water, no heat, no sewer, no communication, no transport, no light, no water management.
- No way to build new chips.

Who will survive? The "poor" farmers, who today already manage to survive without technology.


Intelligent Computers
This I think is the most important technological thing coming, coming soon, probably within ten years. Intelligent computer software will assist in the development of more powerful intelligent computers, that will assist in the development of more powerful intelligent computers, and so on. It will pick up so much momentum, like an avalanche.
Intelligent computers will be applied almost anywhere, not just to create improved versions of itself. They will speed up developments in many areas, and that will change the way we live, confusingly fast.
What is intelligence? That depends on how you define it.
If the measure is how fast one can make accurate calculations, the computer is already superior to a human. If the measure is how well one can improvise in an unknown situation, the computer's low score still nears the border of absolute dumbness.
But computer software is getting more and more intelligent, while we humans don't evolve much. On average could people become much more intelligent if better education would be available for everyone, but the human DNA doesn't change much, unless we change it ourselves. So, pretty soon (2100?) will we be confronted with machines that score higher on most intelligence test, relative to us old-fashioned humans.

Virtual Experiments
In about 1987 I visited a place where they had an extremely expensive helium cooled super-computer that was capable of rendering 3D object animations with light reflections, overnight. Only the major companies could afford to rent that machine and the specialized crew, per minute. Today (2008) I can do the same on a basic consumer computer, in real time.
Computers can create a virtual universe. This universe is a very limited place relative to the real thing, but the simulations continue to grow more and more realistic. At first, specialized computers could deal with only one subject. But the direction is heading towards combining all subjects into one virtual universe, similar to the real universe (similar yes, but never equal).
Although reality is so complex that it can never be truly be simulated, virtualisation is great tool for developing whatever. I want to develop a full size flying saucer, but that would be an extremely large project. Because it's too large of a project with so much chance of failure, the project will never come of the ground. But if I could run 20 virtual developments over night, I might in a couple of months come up with a design that will most likely be a success, if realized.
To get a better virtual universe, we need to:
- Increase the computing power (hardware, grid computing)
- Develop better software (pattern recognizion, guessing, intelligence)
- Bring all subjects together
- Collect and share knowledge

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Energy Source
First of all there's the sun. All life on Earth runs on the energy of the sun, with only a few exceptions, living at the bottom of deep seas of the energy from inside the Earth. We can't do the fusion process that is happening on the sun here on Earth, not yet, not easily and controlled, but we probably will pretty soon (2022?).

Bio Technology
Some day we can choose to slowly alter the human kind to what we -at that time- think would be an improvement. Strange, even scarry, but it can be beautiful too.

Independent machines
Machines are still as smart and alive as as a pile of sand, but "they" are evolving more independent of human creation and nursery every day. We are doing that.
What to do when we get to the point where machines are "grown up", being independent and having no more need for human support? When machines start to complaining about their rights. Will this lead to war between humans and machines? Possible but not absolutely necessary. We don't kill our parents after being grown up, so why should machines do so? There will be benefits and conflicts.
Are we humans in control over this technological evolution? Not really, people don't plan far into the future, so where will that bring us? We don't guess and don't seem to care either. We aren't organized on this, as usual.

Depending people
People themselves do not evolve nearly as fast as the machines they create, but people can addapt to a chainging environment pretty well. Technology has become a fundamental part of many people's life, we depend upon it so much that when if for example a sunburst would nock down most electronics, people would die by the millions, setting the human life on Earth back to simple farming and hunting. most already can't survive without it (without realizing or wanting to realize that). The poor farmers of

New stuff
The main motion to develop new stuff, is mainly to make a relative higher financial provid. Not the health of people, not the health of the rest of our nature, not for the good of the day after tomorrow.
What can be expected (If no major disaster will happen):
- An exponential groth of computer processing power and data storage.
- Software that is able to develop software and hardware with less human support.
- Computers able to speak on a very realistic tone.
- Global internet access, high speed, a part of almost anything we do.
- Multi touch displays, and displays replacing many buttons.
- People speaking of the time before and after the internet.
- New molecular structures -> new materials -> new types of products.
- More direct human body/mind to machine connections.
- A better understanding and control over nano-mechanics (the small stuff).
- Much easier DNA read-out.
- Selection of the desired egg-sperm combination.
- Designing the DNA of: plands, animals, and then after the human DNA.
- One new universal artificial language (finally!).
- Space travel, will really take-off ONLY when if a propellentless propulsion system is discovered that creates a linear gravity force. And if that is a safe and cheap system, the need for roads and rails on land will slowly disappear, including runways.
- A more evolved understanding of the basic elements (space, energy, gravity, life, love?) and of the combinations that they make.

Inside the human body
Machines are not only growing and evolving as a "stand alone", they're also getting closer to our body, even inside our body. First there was no telephone, the first generation telephones were "fixed", now we have mobile phones, even handsfree on the ear. Next could be communication technology implanted inside our body, in direct or wireless contact with the brain. Today it is ethical OK to replace broken body parts by artificial ones, tomorrow it will be OK to enhance your body with extra functionality, the day after tomorrow your kid will not be accepted to school without proper technology installed.

Organic Designs
Technological objects used to be made from pretty large shapes of:
- Trees (wood)
- Animals (leather, bones, glue, grease)
- Plants (vibers, colors, medicine)
- Stone and Sand (baken stone, ceramic, glas)
- Some metals (iron, gold, silver, copper, lead)
The materials used in technological objects of today add on the variety of the older materials, although many new materials replaced the use of older ones. In all these thousands of years we have searched for and found:
- a larger variety of atoms and combinations of atoms: molecules.
- ways to built bigger and smaller shapes
- shapes of higher precision
- stronger but at the same time lighter materials and shapes
- ways to build more durable objects that need less care
- engines that power it instead of: us, animals, wind or rivers.
- but also ways to build cheap and easy
- New are: electronics, engines, chips, lazerlight, ..
A don't think this will become a complete and accurate historical list, there's just too much!

So, how about the materials and shapes used in the technology of the future? Point of a machine is that it can do the things we want it to do. A machine that is made from a flued or even non-atomic stuff would be fine too. The search for new molecule structures and ways to built stuff will continue, and who knows will we discover new basic things like atoms and forces that can have a huge

Beyond the human body
I don't think we will becoming cyborgs (half human half machine) because we don't want to. But the ability to repair the body will improve (and fix a broken spinal cord.. would be "nice").

Living together
Early humans lived in small groups, inside a very small system of people and nature. Then people started to trade, travel, talk, specialize, developing complex technologies, and exchanging not only goods but also knowledge. First villages arised, than towns, cities, countries. Now we have the United States of America, the United countries of Europe, Big China, the suppressed countries of the Third World... Not all united yet, but the groups are getting bigger. Slowly we evolve towards a global society. (Hard to believe with all these stupid wars going on). And today the internet is the start of what will become a global collective knowledge system; "a shared brain". Slowly we grow towards a cyborg collective.

An ant does what it "thinks" is right.
There are no ants that know it all and tell the others what to do.
Yet, they manage to build the whole ant system and survive.
People are not that different.
We have leaders who bark, but they don't know it all, not even close.
The more you know, the more you know what all you don't know.
No one knows how all technology works, but still; together we managed to survive, give birth to technology, and help it grow towards independence.

Ethics and Direction
Our word will change by all the new technology, although; we will still be humans. That is, unless we start to mess around with our DNA, and we probably will as soon as we can.
Is this rapid technological evolution what we want?!
Naturally, as most things, it can be used for good and bad things. Question is: are we in control? Will technology at some point take control if we don't?
Is life worth protecting?
Is technology worth protecting?
Is technology part of nature, just not biological?
Could a symbiose between humans and advanced technology be a good thing?
We could and should make genius plans, take control and do what is good for our future, but we mostly don't; we play dumb human games.


What will come, after the technological wave?
At a certain point technology has developed as far as possible:
- The theory of everything complete and verified as solid truth.
- Prediction at the theoretical highest possible level.
- Able to construct any possible object.
- Live optimised, our DNA re-designed.
- The universe mapped and visited.
- Conquered death.
Then what will we do?

By embracing technology, we got depended upon it. Most of us would die if for instance all computer chips would suddenly be hit by a magnetic solar storm. In the early days, cells started to work together on a large scale. Our body is a gigantic collaboration of cells, a collective we call a human individual. Bees live together as one organism, a collective of "individuals" that can't survive as a species without the group. We people are slowly turning into a collective organism, together with our technology. But it doesn't have to be like the Borg (of the star trek SF series), that's made up to give the story an dark and powerful enemy.
After re-designing our DNA and everything for thousands of years, we will not be like we are today. I just hope for something beautiful.

Giesbert Nijhuis