How do we go about discussing the gap between our technology’s potential and how well we reach that potential? In many ways technology is the ultimate incarnation of the expression, “more than the sum of it’s parts”. A smart phone mostly consists of simple things like plastic, silicon, glass, metal. Yet, the way in which those substances come together has resulted in a device that has transformed our entire society.
I recently watched an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation where this issue came to mind. The crew of the Enterprise encountered beings with advanced scientific know how. These beings stole a shuttle craft and used it’s existing technology to travel 20 times faster than was previously possible by humans.
The technology to accomplish this “uber feat” was already there. It was only a matter of rearranging it or programming it in a new way. This gap between what our technology is capable of and what we do with it could be an important subject to consider.
As our technology advances, it becomes more likely that a single genius or group of smart people can use it to achieve an “uber feat”. It need not come in the form of traveling 20 times faster than is humanly possible.
Mark Zuckerberg could be an example. He used existing technologies to parlay a few lines of programming code into a billion dollar industry and a communications revolution.
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Zuck is a genius. You could say the same about Bill Gates or Steve Wozniak. Better tech makes it easier. Didn’t Zuck succeed faster than Gates?
I wouldn’t say that it’s fair to compare Zuck to Gates other than the fact that they both poached ideas more or less. Wozniak is a true genius of our times in terms of technological greatness. Zuck only ‘succeeded faster’ than Gates in terms of making his first billion I believe, but the infrastructure was much already laid down for Zuck to make his move into the social media platform. I doubt Zuck ever reaches Gates level of wealth or philanthropy.
Yes, I think this is an interesting conversation. People often think that faster is better, but it isn’t always. I would like to point out that Zuck and Gate are of different generation. Therefore, the availability of opportunities and benefits differ greatly. They are both great and should be consider genius, but in my opinion Gate has a far upper hand. My reason is that because I think Zuck has an easier time making his billion due to the already existing and acceptance of technology.
I whole heartedly agree with you. While Zuckerberg really did achieve his billion a lot faster than Gates did, Zuck did so with already existing technology that to be honest Gates contributed to. While I’m not taking any credit out of Zuck’s work, I consider Gates’ achievements were far greater and more meaningful. While Zuck created Facebook, revolutionized social networks and set the stage for Facebook to create different, innovative technologies (like React for example, which is used on thousands of websites nowadays), Gates set the stage for Zuck. Gates brought computers to the average household and made it possible for Zuck to learn and create Facebook. I think we can conclude that this is the only real way forward. We invent new technologies on the shoulders of innovators. We set the stage for the next generation to be able to create new and amazing things.
I don’t think it’s that important to say who has succeeded faster, Zuckerberg or Gates, the most important is that both created technology that will stay forever and that has changed the way we live our lives. I don’t think there is a bigger legacy than that, apart from the fact that they have become billionaires and can help on a huge number of causes.
This is all so very true. We have the ability to do so much more than we already do. And what we already do is so much more than what we used to be able to do. We just keep growing at an exponential rate.
Zuck succeeded pretty fast because he was still in college when he invented Facebook. If you watch Social Network he was even skipping classes and even making big moves while still living on the campus dorm.He is a very impressive technology genius. I really admire him a lot.
Yes, I agree very much. I think the definition of genius is no longer someone who can invent new things because everything has already been thought of. However, they are those that can take existing idea and take it to the next steps. Innovate through existing knowledge just like building a new house by combining architecture style from different architect. The same things can be said about technology because its the new thing. From this point on ward those who succeed will be those that can twist technology to their benefit.
Success has different meanings. Zuck succeeded faster than Gates in financial matters, that is very true, and i know that is exactly what you mean. Don’t you think someone is going to come up with a greater invention and outsmart Zuck’s invention to become the top?
The success of both of these individuals can be attributed not only to their own initial innovations, but to the way in which they used the resulting influence in target communities to grab the best talent they could to help drive the brand forward. A realistic assessment of any major success endeavor is one of how well it garnered and maintained effective and motivated labor.
It’s for this reason that I find treating these individuals as brilliant minds and even borderline perfection incarnate just seems strange to me.
Perhaps it’s not because these people are geniuses. It’s simply because they are using their observations in other fields to rearrange things in a different and more useful way. For example, henry ford didn’t simply “invent” the automated production line for manufacturing cars, he adapted the systems that he observed in meat production facilities.
Putting Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg on the same plate seems a bit undeserving. Don’t get me wrong, he is a great businessman and still a great mind, but he took something that already existed and advertised it as new. Bill Gates brought something much more innovative to the market in a time where technology was not as prevalent as it is today.
Both are great personalities but I think comparing how long it took for them to make a billion dollars is like comparing apples to oranges. It was much harder to make a billion dollars during Gates time compared to today.
At the moment, I do not think we have mastered space travel enough to be able to predict when warp speed or otherwise will be available, but I do not think it is impossible. Technology has moved really fast in the matter of twenty years, I can only imagine what it will be like in another twenty!
I would say time travel is pretty much out of the question. I do believe a warp drive is in the works for the “near” future. It is amazing that 25 years ago they barely had cell phones and consumers just got their first home PCs. The level of technological achievements that will be bestowed upon us in the coming years is going to be absolutely incredible.
Time travel is possible. All you have to do is eliminate the space between on point in time and the next. Time flies when your having fun, and you don’t notice it. If they could create technology that can preserve your age and cause you to miss days and even years while being occupied with completing a task for a particular time, time warping could happen. Maybe it wouldn’t be exactly like in sci-fi movies but you could come close.
Amongst scientists, there are conflicting opinions about time travel. Some say it’s possible, other say it isn’t. The problem is that there’s hardly any money being invested into it. There are just some small studies being done in a few universities. I think it’s because that a lot of people in the scientific community think that it’s a far-fetched idea, and they’re not taking it seriously.
I think, on a greater or smaller scale, what you’re describing is just technological progress. It’s what always happens when someones discovers somethings, he uses the knowledge and/or technology he already has to improve his knowledge and/or technology. It’s the process through which we evolve scientifically.
The ability to innovate is always there. This shows therevis absolutely no limit to the amount of innovation. I am astound by the thought of the future of innovation in our current society!
I agree, I cannot even fathom the innovation that is to come. I feel like we’ve already come up with so much! Just like when I look at the iphone, I don’t see how they could change it besides maybe a better battery or camera. I almost don’t want it to advance anymore. The current iphone is too large and thin! In movies the latest thing is showing the future having these clear screens like on the phone and computer. Who would want that?! I know I wouldn’t. It would be hard to read anything on it.
It really starts with one single idea plus a visionary to accomplish such feat. Technologies come and go yet the very basix remains. Prior to Facebook, Friendster was the in thing as well as MySpace. But they were not able to go back to what matters most, the user and how they interact. They were busy focusing on new things when in fact, they just habe to utilize their users and go from there.
I agree the technology is there, it is just a matter of discovering how to manipulate it to achieve the goals you set for it. A lot of advancements came not from new inventions but the manipulation of old technology. Rather then come up with something new, inventors should concentrate on improving what already is. Look at computers. An old technology that is forever advancing but still the same in the end.
Yes, that’s true. Think about the invention of the printing press. The printing press was an innovation that changed society and the world. Instead of each book being written individually, they could now be mass produced. Up until that point, all of the technology had been available for such a device to be constructed. Actually, the technology had been around for decades, and even centuries. But it wasn’t a technological advancement that made it happen. It was simply putting a few elements together in a new and innovative way.
I mean, when you speak of the potential of our technology, it seems that you’re separating it from the development of new technology. But aren’t those the same thing? If I were to recombine some elements of phones, or introduce a new element and revolutionize phone technology, I would be creating a new form of phone technology, yet also realizing the potential of that technology, no?
I love how we have accomplished so much with advancing technology. Sometimes it may come in the form of creating new technology or just taking what already exist and making improving it. At the same time, I view technology as a double edge sword. That GPS that you have in your phone is great when you need directions. The same GPS in your phone could also be used to track your movements. Next, we start having issues with privacy because no one wants their personal information to be abused.
It is interesting that you would bring up the Star Trek episode where an alien race “bettered” our technology. It brings to mind the question: Can we think properly to get the most bang from our technology? I feel like that is the essence of your article, and it is a fantastic question to pose. How will we know we’re getting the most from our technology?
Unfortunately, we won’t know how good/bad our technology is until it becomes better, and then the question is moot. Then we start the question of “Is this tech the best we can do?” I feel like the human race cannot reach its full potential technology-wise until we give the researchers and developers the reins to do what they need (within moral boundaries, of course). With the government, private companies, and other selfish entities controlling where research goes, we may be missing some of the best developments that will make humanity better as a whole, all so a man in a tall tower can get his money.
Mark Zuckerberg is an excellent example. He shot to fame fairly quickly with the popularity of facebook and it’s continuing growth as well. As you mentioned he used what technology already created and added some programming along with his ideas to create something that everyone would admit as a miracle! He didn’t invent anything but he created something new out of what was already available to him. The technology was available, the coding was available, all that was left what his own imagination. So yes, I believe that we have a lot more to discover and create out of even whats available to us today. Hence why society is transforming year after year because of this “uber feat”.
This is a question that computer programmers face every day: “How can I make my code more concise/efficient?” Mark Zuckerberg happened to master that question with his creation of Facebook. This is also largely the reason that phone updates occur so frequently; companies are trying to improve open existing technologies. I believe that, as a society, we are getting closer and closer to that technological breakthrough each day.
This is a great post, as there will come a time when we reach a level of technology that things will seem stagnant, until there is another great revolution or change that will basically shake everything that we know. AI is still in its infancy, I cannot wait to see where we can get to in medicine, AI, and all the other technological fields that will see great strides made in the coming decades. I do not fear these changes at all, as I personally don’t think AI will ever be self sufficient.
I think you are kind of stating the obvious here, i.e., that everything that has not been discovered yet is just waiting around us to be discovered. However, this knowledge does not help us in any way unless we have the needed resources/brain power/previous knowledge basis to actually discover them.
The innovations are being driven by companies, and these companies’ ultimate goal is to make a profit. In Silicon Valley, there are many “geniuses” these days investing their time into developing new messaging apps, even though Facebook and many other services already exist. Those efforts could be put into creating other, much more useful inventions and solutions. But the majority of companies and investors are putting their funds into things that have already proven to make money, rather than taking risks with new and different things.
Indeed. We need resources/brain power/previous knowledge in order to make breakthroughs as you have pointed out. As we gain more knowledge, we find more efficient ways to achieve the same objectives.
Most innovations are simply arranging things in a different way. Everyone stands on the shoulders of giants. What you’re describing reminds me of how Steve Jobs is viewed nowadays; even though a lot of the things his company sold had already been invented by someone else, and the company really brought nothing new to the table in terms of technology, it was how they branded, designed and structured their product that allowed it to get as popular as it is today.
The human body is a medium, but human mind is God. And the thing about genius and creative people is that they simply link together the things they already know then they make a fortune if lucky…just like Zuck’s case.
Your statements about how existing technology can be bent into something that seems next generation are valid. In fact, Nintendo uses the same principle when making their games and devices. Nintendo streams to make the most of existing technology, and it works quite well.
That’s a valid point. Einstein had much fewer resources than our modern society, but was able to achieve at such a high level. With our technology, all we have to do is wait for a genius to come by and that will push humankind further. Although, the technology itself is very influential to the younger generations. I would think that a genius would not come by very easily nowadays.
I think that our latest technologies are flexible enough to allow everyone to take the next step on the technological evolution. Building new revolutionary stuff is not as difficult as 20-30 years ago, because there are a lot of existing building-blocks one can use, without the need to reinvent the wheel. That’s a great advantage we have.
However, I do not agree with your mention about someone like Bill Gates or Zuckerberg creating billion dollar industries with “just a few lines of code”. I think there was a lot of work involved is what they built.
You presented an interesting approach to technology and I really like it. Sometimes I just stare at my phone and think “wow, so a lot of materials combined in a complicated way have formed what I’m holding in my hand: something that we wouldn’t have dreamt about even 20 years ago”. It really goes to show that technology has come a long way and today’s society has a lot of smart people.
It is interesting to see that we repurpose technology to fit our current human wants and needs. Invention and innovation go hand in hand this way but the line of what we should do and not do in relation to this technology appears for example in the way the Manhattan Project was born and Einstein’s reaction for his discovery was turned into a bomb. The scientists wanted to weaponize the atom and the other wanted to see it used for peace. The Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite books. 🙂
It’s crazy how we even managed think of putting certain crops together to form bread etc. thousands of years ago but to even begin to wrap (no pun intended!) your head around how far we have come since then is absolutely mind boggling. It’s so exciting to think of the technology that will soon be available to us; self driving cars and so on
I think that the human race has come pretty far in the field of technology already, in fact maybe we’re moving a little too fast. The things that technology can do right now is both incredible and terrifying. You can tell from these blogs itself, some new things which are being developed are so new – apps which can tell how you feel, and a live streaming service that could substitute for someone’s presence anywhere. Who knows – things we currently deem impossible (like time-travel) could become possible in a matter of 20 years…
It’s crazy how we even managed think of putting certain crops together to form bread etc. thousands of years ago but to even begin to wrap (no pun intended!) your head around how far we have come since then is absolutely mind boggling. It’s so exciting to think of the technology that will soon be available to us; self driving cars and so on. The future will be perfect.
The play on words in the title is fantastic! I mean Uber the transportation company is the perfect example of this phenomenon in play. Most drivers have had phones and plans capable of this for the last decade, but when we write the correct software presto we get a billion dollar industry shaping force overnight. This is only getting to be more and more common.
I believe anything is possible if the right approach/technology is implemented. Going back in history, I’m sure somebody living 200 years ago would’ve said that we’ll never harness the power of electricity, or we’ll never be able to hear a voice that isn’t nearby. But, here we are. Although it seems like modern science has ruled out faster than light travel, since it requires an object to lose all of its mass, who’s to say someone won’t find a way around that?
That’s quite an interesting thought. When you think about it, there are so many gaps to close within humanities knowledge, not only when it comes to technology but also a lot of other processes, such as the medical field, or the explanation of many natural disasters. We think we don’t know the answers, but maybe one day a group of clever people will just show up and notice the details we have missed. It happened many times before, it might happen again!
The potential for a collective to innovate and improve technology, and thus overall living standards will always be more potent than the individual no matter how brilliant. The real limiting factor to me in terms of reaching said innovative potential is the cabal-like control that private interests have on the most important areas of an economy. Rather than allowing autonomy and innovation to occur organically, the order of the day is one of regimented structure that stifles creativity.
It’s a pretty cool idea that we could already have all of the tools needed to do all of this crazy advanced stuff. We just need somebody wealth a know how on how to put it all together and we could sail hundreds of years in the future when it comes to technology. I guess this should be motivation for anybody going into fields like that.
You know, I have thought of this before, scientists before were more intelligent because they invented everything from nothing. But I think I might have my perspective changed because of this article. Being a genius doesn’t only mean inventing a new thing. It also means reinventing or recreating something from what is already invented. I mean, a lot of things have already been invented. It’s very rare to discover a new element or create a new invention from scratch like a light bulb or a medicine. What you can do is incorporate these already created concepts or things and create a revolutionary thing or concept. Much like what computer and cellphone companies are doing these days.
Actually, this is true. The inventors of our time are mostly building upon the inventions of the past. But the inventors of the past didn’t invent things out of nothing, They invented things by observing nature. If you watch some videos of Jacques Fresco, he actually explains this very elegantly. And what he says is that nobody actually invented anything. They are simply using their observations to come up with new methods of doing things.
Experimentation done with purpose generally goes nowhere. It’s when we make those accidental discoveries that magic begins to happen. If your purpose isn’t to cure cancer, you’re going to find the cure for cancer. It’s those little things we do with low intents that take us far. Of course, dreaming about the big things never hurts…
I agree and really feel what you are saying. It is amazing what great technology advances we have and how wonderful and simple it has made our lives…yes I agree. So lets take the pyramids in Egypt…I would compare that same notion to the wonderful creation…they used the technological innovations that they had and made a creation so astounding….. still to this day….and it is even said by the experts that the technology back then was way more advanced than today’s.
Sometimes you just have to look at things in a different way to what it has till now. This is easier said then done after all we are preprogrammed to think in a certain way. More often then not we are taught what we can’t do and not what we can. The people that are able to think out of the box have made great contributions to where we are now.
Technology improvement is all about a sudden spark, it all starts from a simple idea. It’s that idea that makes people conceive new ways to use the tools we already have: the thing is, trying to break the schemes we’ve always been imposed and we’ve always lived to is insanely hard. That’s why it happens so rarely, and that’s why the ones that manage to get it done are so successful; and yet, people still insist on replying with answers of the likes of “I could have thought about that, too”.
Recognizing a great idea and a genius is the first step we should take, if we want to even try to catch a glimpse of all of this.
The secret always is to diversify and generate concurrence. When those requisites are met, things tend to get better in both quality and quantity. Just look a Uber, they diversified their jobs, allowing a lot of people to compete, the result is that people prefer Uber instead of regular taxi cabs.
Yes I agree, oustanding things are achieved often with relative ease. Usually it is something small we are missing that is right under our noses and a different set of eyes helps detects it.
Technology will grow exponentially.
It’s all about the concept, it’s all about the need, it’s all about having the idea and once we have that the technical support or technology already exists.
So basically all we need to make it and to make a difference is to have one good idea.
Its always about assimilation. Everybody has access to everything equally, but only few can make breakthroughs. Why is that? it’s because only few can assimilate in the most effective way. Why didn’t we have fb in something like 2000? Because no one integrated the existing code like Mark could. Its all about summation and integrating with existing technologies to make something even better.
Another example would have to be with the iphone. Steve Jobs essentially took existing technology and morphed it into a phone that can do everything. What do we have nowadays? Basically nothing but smart phones on the market. He made it sleek, he made it simple. Now every phone is sleek and simple. Every phone is basically a black rectangle. It was a pretty huge leap with just that.
Steve was really good at making tech easy and appealing to the average consumer. There is nothing new or revolutionary about any of Apple’s products really. But so many firms have tried and failed where Apples succeeded. That’s because Apple understood what consumers wanted, not just what engineers could make. I think most new tech should take a lesson from them.
This is a brilliant example. I remember years ago watching a video presentation of the multi-touch technology that is used in iPhones, prior to the first release of the iPhone. I believe that it was developed by another company (that was later bought up by Apple). Steve Jobs took that idea and he built the IPhone with it. And that totally changed the way people use their phone. It wasn’t some great “invention”. It was a simple idea, yet it was revolutionary.
One problem with technology is the fact that we tend to load it with all the goodies we can imagine, and then some. We can’t just invent something and let it be. We have to re-invent it 900 times until it becomes so gadget-laden that it can no longer perform its original duty at the same efficiency it used to have. A prime example was already used in the article… The smart phone. Smart phones do everything but tuck you into bed at night, yet the audio quality of your average smart phone call leaves a lot to be desired. Is this because the designers no longer care about actual calling, when you can email, text, and contact people a myriad of ways? Or is it simply because there is too much technology packed into that little rectangle in our hands? Sometimes we just get a bit too “uber” carried away with our re-inventing.
I think that we have reached an era where more important than technology is the concept behind it. Sure, we need to have the technological basis to develop that concept, but as you mentioned so well, it’s not the technology that made Facebook or Uber so big, but the fact that they answer to people’s needs.
Yes, sometimes it can be quite of amazing to see all our technological devices as just product of ideas, materials and a lot of time of research and sometimes failure. And I can’t really see why Uber can’t become such a big thing as Facebook did… But I think that this might take a little bit longer, since Uber hasn’t had the best ideas lately with the whole Uber pool thing… But it’s still a big company, so I would look forward for its improvement.
Thanks for sharing!