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The way technology is evolving

By Jean-Claude Elias - Sep 14,2017 - Last updated at Sep 14,2017

Today, in the world of Information Technology (IT) more particularly, the evolution and progress pattern is significantly different from what it used to be generations ago. Things evolve almost daily, in hardly perceptible steps. It is only when you look five or ten years behind you that you realise how much things have changed and that a revolution really did take place.

Apparently the days are gone when scientists used make a sudden discovery, overnight, and amaze the world with it, in some kind of a breaking news frenzy. One of the most famous examples in history is that of Sir Isaac Newton who it is said, probably anecdotally, “understood” gravity in a snap, when a ripe apple fell on him from the tree he was sitting under. That was the seventeenth century!

Even in the nineteenth century, Thomas Edison, Alexander Bell, Louis Pasteur and Guglielmo Marconi were some of the scientists who also made sensational discoveries or brought truly breaking technical and scientific innovations.

Is nowadays’ slower progress pattern a bad thing?

It is not, of course. Except for the fact that the population is used as testing ground and is made to participate in the process, by having to buy, to watch and to experiment — did I say to suffer? — through all the little steps. It is not only costly, but also exhausting.

When you keep changing frequently your smartphone or laptop computer, your usage, your financial participation, and your feedback, intentional or not, help the industry to improve the various elements of the devices: memory, processor, hard disk and so forth. Your external USB disk drive may not be much better than the one you bought last year, but certainly is a far cry from the one you got five years ago.

The same applies to software updates. The new Windows 10 Creators is clearly more powerful, safer, faster and friendlier than Windows XP, for instance. However, Microsoft made you work through Windows XP, 7, 8 and 10, over a period of about 15 years. Slowly of course, so you help but do not feel the pain. In a dream world, the company would provide with a clearly improved system every 20 or 25 years.

Earlier this week Reuters published a story titled “YuMi the robot conducts Verdi with Italian orchestra”. All that the robot did was to mimic a conductor’s gestures. The article indicates that it would have been unable to follow eventual tempo change by the orchestra. In other words it is still far, very far, from being able to replace a real conductor. And yet, every year or so you read that robots have done this or that; that soon they will be the perfect home helper for the elderly, etc.

Instead of waking up one day with the nearly-perfect robot, we are made to live all the little steps that eventually would lead to the perfect thing. In the meantime, they would like you to buy the small home robot that, supposedly, can clean up your floor. Here again, you are asked to participate in the process.

Perhaps everything that can be discovered overnight has been discovered and that technical progress, from now on, can only be achieved in little steps, with the population’s implicit participation.

Still, would not it be nice to wake up tomorrow and have a software operating system that never crashes, starts and shuts off instantly, reports errors in plain language that everyone would understand, never catches a virus and issues pre-emptive warning before the hard disk fails on you? Do not you sometimes have the feeling that the world of IT is going mad?

 

To quote Sir Isaac Newton: “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.”

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