I just finished up a set of articles on darkness. This was a group of articles on the subject surrounding darkness. It started as we left the light of Daylight Savings Time and then walked through how to take photos in the dark, our love or hate for “dark mode” on devices, a quick look back at the 2003 blackouts, on How to Be Light in the Darkness with Bonhoeffer, and some self-portrait dark mode.
This time I’m taking a small look at the topic of technology advancements and the Internet. Some ideas I have about future articles in this realm is an article about how the internet could change photography, another on how the Internet relates to the technology of domain names, a third I’ve sorta titled “Can a Church Survive Without the Internet in 2023,” and then one about a book called 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You. So stay tuned for those.
All of Technology is Iteration
Every, single, year, starting annually in September when the new iPhone comes out, I hear people endlessly complaining about how nothing new has changed with this new iPhone iteration. And next week when the iPhone 15 Pro Max Ultra whatever comes out I expect the grandpa shirt meme to be seen all over the X-verse once again.
Year after year they say the same thing. I’ve never heard so many people complain so much about something that makes technological leaps every single year, in iterations.
I think people just find iterative advancements boring. What people think they are wanting is a huge leap to a totally new something, like when the iPhone was first released. The problem is, this doesn’t happen very often at all. Maybe most recently we have the Apple Vision Pro (which honestly feels a little weird), maybe before that, the Apple Watch, the iPad, and so on. But technology is iterative advancements from one person to the next, one invention to the next, from one whole generation to the next. This is where technological advancements come from. There are far fewer inventions of whole new things.
This book is the best book in explaining iterations. The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson. Isaacson walks through time talking about everything from the very beginning with how Ada Lovelace in the 1840’s was directly responsible for today’s computers. All in iterations from Charles Babbage’swork on a general purpose computer, which was started in the previous generation. Isaacson moves all the way through Silicon Valley in a fascinating study of the history of technology. If you are interested at all in how we got to where we are today in technology, this book is a great place to start (I recommend getting the audiobook version to go along with the text).
Iterative Advancements are Everywhere
Have you ever stopped to think about how many things run off the Internet today? All of these came from iterative advancements from something. Consider for a moment the Internet of Things (IoT) genre (that would be your dishwasher, refrigerator, light bulbs, the tiny little Apple AirTags, bluetooth trackers), or perhaps cryptocurrency which is an incredible iterative advancement with blockchain developments (the FTX crash is a less positive result of course), that originated from a white-paper. How about software development, or just getting gas at a gas station using your credit/debit card. All of these items above impact everyone in some form or another. Even if you don’t understand them, they still affect the daily life of just about everyone.
How about something closer to the mainstream understanding, your car! Without falling too deep into that rabbit hole, a car manufactured in 2023 collects, processes, distributes, and sells, more data points than any cell phone could ever dream of doing. Then the data is being transmitted over the Internet back to servers via your cars’ LTE or satellite connection. This is being done every second of every day, continuously, it never stops. Self-driving cars and electric vehicles are all iterations of the Model-T in some form. Electric cars couldn’t be possible without DC current, which was at war with AC current when electricity was invented.
Life is Better with Iterative Advancements
It is virtually impossible to find something that was not the result of some iterative advancement from a previous day. Maybe we could be more knowledgeable about how things work, or the history contained within the technology in question, but who has time for that these days.
With AI and machine learning, the possibilities really are endless. I’ve come across so many interesting stories around creating new art with the aid of AI, if that’s your jam. Certainly the world of AI is here to stay, and isn’t all roses, but it’s certainly an iterative advancement that took years to get to where ChatGPT could exist.
There is no denying there is a lot of bad out there, a lot of crime, hatred, violence, Silk Road type stuff, and all things “bad,” but those things have always been with us. The Internet and technology is just an avenue for things to happen, not a cause.
In the end, ultimately, I think history will conclude the quality of life is certainly higher worldwide because of the these little steps we take year after year.
To be Blissfully Ignorant
Either way, there is no putting the technology back in the bottle. It will only become more and more pervasive as time moves on. Iterative advancements are embedded in the fabric of time itself. I see no end to this. That may scare some, but what it should do is cause us to pay more attention to how these things work. Not that we should all become software engineers, but maybe just a little more knowledgeable consumers of the technology we do use.
This is hard to do when things advance so quickly that not even those who work in the technology space fully understand the technology. I’m going for just a hair above blissful ignorance. You don’t have to be a mechanic to know how to drive a car, but it helps to know how to put power into the lithium-ion batteries.