If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

Tag: technology

Douglas Adams – The Salmon of Doubt (2002)

Now that we’ve built computers, first we made them room-size, then desk-size and in briefcases and pockets, soon they’ll be as plentiful as dust—you can sprinkle computers all over the place. Gradually, the whole environment will become something far more responsive and smart, and we’ll be living in a way that’s very hard for people living on the planet just now to understand.

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Douglas Adams – The Salmon of Doubt (2002)

But nowadays everybody’s a comedian, even the weather girls and continuity announcers. We laugh at everything. Not intelligently anymore, not with sudden shock, astonishment, or revelation, just relentlessly and meaninglessly. No more rain showers in the desert, just mud and drizzle everywhere, occasionally illuminated by the flash of paparazzi.

Creative excitement has gone elsewhere—to science and technology: new ways of seeing things, new understandings of the universe, continual new revelations about how life works, how we think, how we perceive, how we communicate.

Douglas Adams – The Salmon of Doubt (2002)

It would be interesting to keep a running log of predictions and see if we can spot the absolute corkers when they are still just pert little buds. One such that I spotted recently was a statement made in February by a Mr. Wayne Leuck, vice-president of engineering at USWest, the American phone company. Arguing against the deployment of high-speed wireless data connections, he said, “Granted, you could use it in your car going sixty miles an hour, but I don’t think too many people are going to be doing that.” Just watch. That’s a statement that will come back to haunt him. Satellite navigation. Wireless Internet. As soon as we start mapping physical location back into shared information space, we will trigger yet another explosive growth in Internet applications.

At least—that’s what I predict.

(from 1999)

Ansel Adams – The Camera (1980)

There is something magical about the image formed by a lens. Surely every serious photographer stands in some awe of this miraculous device, which approaches ultimate perfection. A fine lens is evidence of a most advanced technology and craft. It is not surprising that we should develop a real affection for equipment that serves us well, but in spite of all the science and technology that underlies our medium, the sensitive photographer feels his images in a plastic sense. We must come to know intuitively what our lenses and other equipment will do for us, and how to use them.

Michio Kaku – Physics of the Future (2011)

Even cockroaches can identify objects and learn to go around them. We are still at the stage where Mother Nature’s lowliest creatures can outsmart our most intelligent robots.

Michio Kaku – Physics of the Future (2011)

The problem with the top-down approach is that there are simply too many lines of code for common sense necessary to mimic human thought. Hundreds of millions of lines of code, for example, are necessary to describe the laws of common sense that a six-year-old child knows.

Michio Kaku – Physics of the Future (2011)

Today, it is possible to put a chip into a pill about the size of an aspirin, complete with a TV camera and radio. When you swallow it, the “smart pill” takes TV images of your gullet and intestines, and then radios the signals to a nearby receiver. (This gives new meaning to the slogan “Intel inside.”)

Michio Kaku – Physics of the Future (2011)

According to Moore’s law, every Christmas your new computer games are almost twice as powerful (in terms of the number of transistors) as those from the previous year. Furthermore, as the years pass, this incremental gain becomes monumental. For example, when you receive a birthday card in the mail, it often has a chip that sings “Happy Birthday” to you. Remarkably, that chip has more computer power than all the Allied forces of 1945. Hitler, Churchill, or Roosevelt might have killed to get that chip. But what do we do with it? After the birthday, we throw the card and chip away. Today, your cell phone has more computer power than all of NASA back in 1969, when it placed two astronauts on the moon.

Alan Lightman – Dance for Two (1996)

Why should our nation, or any nation, support pure science? Why should a nation pay for an activity that brings it no clear economic or military advantage? Why should a nation support an activity that seems useless?

It seems to me that pure science has several different values. In order of increasing range into the future, pure science entertains us, it provides the soil from which technology grows, it changes our worldview, and it grants us cultural immortality.

Alan Lightman – Dance for Two (1996)

But we cannot have advances in technology without an accompanying consideration of human values and quality of life.

…Perhaps we each must think about what is truly important in our lives and decide which technologies to accept and which to resist. This is a personal responsibility. In the long run, we need to change our thinking, to realize that we are not only a society of production and technology but also a society of human beings.