One of the topics that occasionally crops up in personal conversations with friends is the issue of the rate of technological change. And yet the more and more I live life the more I feel that many of these discussions are predicated on the punctuated and precise emergence of technologies at a specific time and point (e.g., the web in 1995). And yet consider the “smart phone,” or more accurately, the phone as we understand it today. When the iPhone came out it was criticized for not being quite so radical or revolutionary, and I think the idea of the smart phone with a data plan has transformed the way we live our lives. It’s just not as sexy as more salient technologies. Sometimes there are even technologies which are obviously radical, but whose importance seems to bleed into our lives. Within the next 5 years I assume that civilian “drones” will become ubiquitous and banal, whether we like them or not.
The rise of drones have the potential for radically centralizing power and control. 3-D printing on the other hand pushes in the other direction. The apotheosis of this idea is a firm called Defcad, which made a splash at South by Southwest. Defcad emerged out of conflicts in the “Maker” subculture. Below is the introductory video of the founder:
Are you exhilarated? Or are you creeped out? Ultimately it may not matter. We’ve been waiting for the “future” to hit us since the 1950s. Perhaps the first quarter of the 21st century will usher in the radical transformations which have been the purview of science fiction for nearly a century.