Re: Technology Advancements (was: Generation gap)

Anders Sandberg (
28 Sep 1997 15:32:51 +0200

Felix Ungman <> writes:

> Anders Sandberg:
> >Pen and paper have not been substantially improved except in quality
> >for the last centuries, but written culture have managed to develop
> >quite nicely.
> True, but given *any* technology, it will not likely to improve much,
> except a steady increase in quality, or a steady decrease in price.

You are still talking about the technology itself, not what it is
used for. The systems of writing and organizing texts have steadily
improved at an exponential rate even when the paper has not changed
much, today we could (with some concentration) write software for
old PC's that would have been amazing in the old days when they were
originally used (but we have moved to more advanced computers,
allowing our code to bloat - maybe it is not good with a too fast
evolution of the basic medium for the evolution of the applications
we run in it?).

A technology acting as a medium for other technologies or culture
acts as an amplifier; one could perhaps multiply its "power" with
the power of the things that are run in it. Of course, these things
can also be medias: the power of a web of information is
[power of computer] x [power of programs] x[power of information],
so as the power of each of these levels increases, the total power
increases much faster.

> On the other hand, some modest extensions to the old written
> culture, e.g. the Zork stories, required more interactive technology.
> In this case the culture made a quantum leap to a whole new technology.

Was Zork really a modest extension? I would say it was a qualitative
jump, so the need for a new technology was not unreasonable. But
there can also be cultural quantum jumps that doesn't involve new
physical technology, such as the introduction of mind-maps, modern
book indexing (which increases usability immensely) or the introduction
of new notations in science.

> But even if a technology is open-ended it is limited (at least today).
> Are you saying that at some point in the future, there will exists
> a technology so powerful (i.e. limitless) that it can satisfy everyones
> basic need to explore her curiosity and imagination?

Yes. I would say information technology and nanotechnology may be
the most obvious candidates. There will still be limits, but within
these limits the potential for imagination is infinite (OK, let's
ignore the Bekenstein bound for a moment :-).

> Another possibility would be that imagination is limited.

Now that is a worrying thought! But you are right, the human mind is
finite, so our imagination must also be finite (if large). So this
is yet another reason to transcend.

More philosophically, imagination is likely not limited since it
can encompass mathematics, and by Gödel's theorem we know mathematics
is not limited - there are always new, unexpected and unprovable
theorems. So there will always be things that can be imagined that
cannot be deduced automatically (finding them may be hard).

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y