Posted by: Khepera | Thursday, 25 March 2010

REVISED: Notes on the Pending Technology Tidal Wave

Some of you may have heard the new meme, or catch phrase — the pending ‘technology avalanche’, or tidal wave.  I prefer the tidal wave metaphor, because of it’s cognitive trigger, vs avalanche, which is far more local/specific, because, clearly, the impact of this technology wave will be much more far-reaching than anything we have seen so far.

Let’s consider a little history here.  From telegraph, in the 1800’s, we went to the telephone, and, shortly, radio.  But this is not simply about communications.  Consider the development of the phonograph and how, though not considered this way for decades, it introduced the idea of a portable storage mechanism for information & program material — the vinyl record.  Most were oblivious to the decommissioning of radar technology in the late 40’s & early 50’s, but that led to microwave ovens.  Television introduced the first true multimedia experience in the home — pictures & sound, like the movies.  Nearly all of these changes were the result of the proliferation in use of electricity as a power source, instead of muscle power(man or animal), water, steam, or hydraulics.

As telephones proliferated, and teletype was introduced(later converting to facsimile, or fax), TV shifted from B&W to color, the emergence of satellites began changing our communication process forever.  Following the previous  technologies of mimeograph and ditto, the introduction of the photocopier, and the electronic typewriter significantly altered how we documented information, then shared that info.  The freedom & portability of easily copied documents exponentially magnified the meaning of the dreaded term ‘paperwork’.  The introduction of the instant photograph, @ Polaroid, and later, Instamatic cameras, was a sign of the onset of ‘instant gratification‘, soon to become a psychological/sociological malady we have yet to purge or recover from.  The introduction of tape media — 8-track and cassette — made storage/program material more portable, and easier to carry/store.  They remained, however, susceptible to damage @ heat, crimping, scratching, etc.  Not much later, in the early to mid-70’s, video playback & recorders for the home arose, first from Philips, then more memorably from Sony.  Videotapes profoundly changed the home experience in the USA, freeing us from the constraints of TV schedules, to watch programs and events at a time of our own choosing.

Now, let’s pause for a moment, and look at how these things changed/impacted how we interacted with one another.  Telegraph meant that folks in New York could get a message to San Francisco in minutes, instead of days(with the Pony Express, then railroad), or weeks(by ship).  The impact for government & business is obvious, but it also impacted all of us, changing out methods as well as our expressiveness. Telegraph emphasized word economy, whereas the telephone did the opposite, at least on local calls.  The increase in quality & clarity of sound as technology matured changed not just how we listened to music, but it changed and shaped what musicians sought to capture.  The second wave of electronic &/or electrified instruments created new genres, idioms and colors in sound.  I say second wave, because most don’t know about the Theremin(it is also dealt with quite well in a documentary of the same name.)  Remember that in the early 60’s, stereo was introduced, followed quickly by quadrophonic sound systems, and others, designed to replicate in the home the listening environment &/or experience of theatres, arenas and halls.  Some might even suggest this as our first venture into virtuality — where we experience something from somewhere else in a manner closely similar to what the experience would be if we were actually there — though others may disagree.

By the late 70’s, computers as stand alone devices had emerged from defense & corporate laboratories and university basements.  Electronics were insinuating themselves into our lives in everything from controls on stoves, refrigerators, thermostats, washers, dryers and automobiles.  Soon we were informed that ‘computer’ did not just mean a machine with a keyboard and a screen, but could be something as small and simple as a chip — microchip — like one would finds in their doorbell, telephone or automatic garage door opener.  Timers, switches and other fledgling levels of automation were rapidly accepted and celebrated for how they liberated us from trivial concerns.

It’s worth mentioning that these sweeping changes, then, as now, are generally more discernible to those over 40, who have lived long enough to have perspective, and recognize the shifts in pattern & engagement.  A parallel discussion, with even deeper implications @ computing power can be found in an earlier blog post here: Technology: Do We Really Know What We Have In our Hands?(note the date).

These technology developments of the last century & a half are as nothing compared to what is coming, and the changes which accompany them will dwarf the impact of say vinyl record to 8-track to cassette to CD to DVD to MP3 to jump drive(small portable data storage units).  There is a lot to digest here…

Dave Evans, CISCO Futurist,
CISCO Internet Business Solutions Group
predicts Technology Avalanche


  1. How is this affected, or is it affected, by Global Warming, Peak Oil, the Clash of Civilizations and the population explosion?

  2. Of course it is affected by those forces, but, imho, these factors only serve to exacerbate, to accelerate/expand the coming tidal wave. Also, as many have pointed out, there is a coming *die-off* within the human population, whether through geophysical event or disease. Like any other resource, access to technology will become as primal as access to water, food, or, in some cases air, and those who have will dominate those who do not.

  3. I was just speaking to someone the other day concerning the evolution of man and that we have not evolved anymore than since the Homo Erectus. I disagreed, stating that although we still have illiteracy, that is not the status quo. Although you have people who are not computer literate, that is not the status quo. Although in the past, education was a source of information after high school to enable to you get a job, that is not the status quo. The new surge in information is showing that man IS evolving technologically, and those who can’t keep up will be the stage of man that has been left behind. We are always evolving and to keep abreast, the businesses sign on the best of the best from universities and colleges and the average Joe Blow is gonna have to have a computer at home and keep classes updated to stay abreast. In that way we as man will begin to utilize more than a 10% of their brain. Bring on the technology. But use responsibility in that it does not rule us.

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