Monday, February 23, 2009

The Next Revolution

Most folks I read or talk with say we are in an Internet or information revolution. If asked about the most important invention in recent years they will answer the Internet or maybe the mirco processor.

Please allow me to be contrary for a moment. Such a surprise.

I think there have been two revolutionary technologies in the history of mankind. I believe the first was the discovery of fire and learning how to use it to replace and supplement physical actions and knowledge.

Following this line of thought, the industrial revolution is the current apex of our ability to use the energy created by fire. The knowledge passed on by the use of the energy of fire is the design and functionality of the machines and processes.

The revolution brought on by fire has taken tens of thousands of years to reach our point today.

The second great revolution was created by the discovery of electricity. I notice that this is also an energy source. Like fire's energy, this energy is also used to replace and supplement physical actions and knowledge.

The energy from electricity is able to be more controlled and contained. The result seems to be that it is able to be much more useful for supplementing knowledge in the form of information. Electricity benefits from an ability to work at a tremendously smaller scale.

For a variety of reasons the advances in technology and society are being made at a much faster pace with electricity. It has been around for a little over 100 years.

Can you think through the reasons behind the sequence of developments resulting from the discovery of fire and relate them to the sequence of developments we have seen so far from electricity? If so, what do you think is next?

If you accept the premises that these are the two - and only two - core revolutions in human history then you will think that the next revolution will have to be the discovery of a new source of energy which can be used by us.

Just like fire and electricity it must already exist.

Electricity could not have been developed as an energy source without fire having been sufficiently developed to provide the infrastructure base to be built upon.

Will the next source have been able to be built without the infrastructure base of electricity or is there something else which can be built on the infrastructure of fire? Or will the next revolution be a way to harness electricity without being dependent on the infrastructure of fire.

Of course there is a great deal left to be created from the two energy sources we have developed so if this is not a line of thought that interests you, there is no shortage of things to be doing.

This ramble just goes to show what happens when I take two days off and my mind wanders.

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