The Problem of Market Acceptence and Accelerating Trends
I have often pondered this curious problem concerning accelerating technological progress. We are just now getting to the point where the problem may begin to really manifest itself. The problem I'm talking about is the problem of getting new breakthroughs to market before another breakthrough renders them wholly obsolete. An example of this would be information storage. Right now everyone is using CD's and DVD's for their optical drives, and personal hard drives and flash memory otherwise.
The problem on the optical side is, as I'm sure all my readers are aware, no one can seem to agree on whether Blue Ray or HD-DVD is the better format. Meanwhile holographic discs are about to burst onto the seen offering six times the information density of either the aforementioned formats and at much higher speeds. Will this seemingly unbelievable technology also become obsolete before it reaches market?
It could be that in the very near future ever increasing broadband speeds will make all forms of information storage obsolete as any information can be stored on servers and instantly called up from any terminal. This scenario seems even more likely when you consider that such technologies as WiMax, WiBro, and EVDO will soon make ubiquitous high speed access to the web possible.
But this is just one example of what I'm talking about. Why buy that new digital camera when you can get a much better one at the same price in just a few months? Or why buy that new laptop (which is a serious investment) when it will be rendered inadequate in just a year? I mean computer power has been doubling every year for a while now but it wasn't that big of a deal before because the doubling didn't represent that big of jump in technology. I mean if you double one dollar you get two – big deal right? But if you double a million you get two million, now that is a big deal. The same principle can be applied to computing power. As the exponential curve of accelerating technologies begins to rise further and further at an ever higher rate the difference of just one year will be quite serious.
Of course at some point you have to just bite the bullet and buy a new computer even though you know that it will be hopelessly outdated in the near future. The crazy thing is this problem is only going to get much more difficult as we head up that curve.
Just something to think about.
Part of the problem is that the business of making money has become a bottleneck. Investors are becoming more pessimistic about projected returns because of the shorter life cycle of each new advance. It is a big problem, because without investment many tech advances never get developed fully and certainly never show up in the marketplace.
What's the answer? My layman's opinion is that we will become a modularized tech society, where a piece of technology will be replaceable without serious disruption to the whole. The important part of computer tech these days is how well and how quickly do you turn data into information. The mechanics become unimportant as long as data is not lost or corrupted.
The DVD issue is a good example. It is only an issue because DVD's primary function is to transport data. If your reader was a bitstream reader (i.e. software) then there would be no issue with replacing hardware. A DVD server could generate the bitstream, and then be replaced by the holographic disk server, and the consumer market would not know the difference. In other words, the network is final answer (from a consumer point of view) for data storage and dissemination. For a period of time, we will have disks but the net will eventually replace custom hardware with generic software equivalents (as much as I hate to say that).
I think the future direction of data storage and dissemination is easy to predict. The affect on accelerating technology development on other areas would be more difficult to predict because of their inherent physical nature (for example, medical treatments).
David: I'd hate to say that also. If this came to be the case, the Net, sadly, would lose what makes it strong: being distributed.
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