I think that the "It's all been done" mentality is a sign of old age. The jadedness you slough off onto the page tells me that reality has failed to live up to the instant gratification demands of your youthful enthusiasm. I think we're all destined to be disappointed as we age, because ignorance is bliss, and the more we learn, the more we can appreciate the difficulty of attaining the complexities of a future which, as children, we took for granted.
IMHO, technological advancement is very much like evolution. It proceeds slowly, mind-numbingly slowly at times, but is punctuated by periods of remarkably rapid development when adversity or massive environmental change require it do so to survive.
Wars are major up-swells, and serve as technological springboards. So are all crises which challenge survival, really. The old adage of "No pain, no gain" holds true. Why create, innovate and strive when needs are adequately met? Ingenuity and intelligence are useful only for solving problems, and we haven't had many problems lately.
The recent lunge in computing technology has been very decadent. It has been driven by coolness and entertainment, and convenience. We've grown fat and lazy, and the result, the streaming video on demand, the portable mp3 players, the 60 fps video cards, the wireless LAN, are genuinely ho-hum as you say.
We need crisis.
We need a really big rock to take aim at our heads, and we need it to loom large so that our survival instinct requires us to put all this technology which we've built to entertain ourselves, to some valid, critical use.
We need a major war. At least, continued technological advancement needs one.
Alternately, we will continue to be blase about our tech, we will continue to make useless, irrelevant mutations of technology, the Aibos and iDodos and ePlatypuses, if you will, simply to entertain ourselves.
However, there is a bright side even to this eventuality. While we, living here with plentiful resources, waste the potential of the technology we create, there are more challenging environments out there. There are places which will challenge our existing technology, force it to adapt and perform, or cause it to die. These places have their own agenda, in caves and deserts, in the arctic and antarctic, in the rain forest and on the road.
I think that the world is changing. Redundant as that statement is, since the world is constantly all fluxed up, I think there is a change beginning, and we're not in the lead.
I think we will see an emergence of enclave societies. Unlike in the US, were if you need milk, you get in your SUV and drive down the street, in other parts of the world, convenience takes careful planning. I think we will see the emergence of relatively self-contained societies, relatively small ones, of several thousand people.
Self sufficient in terms of immediate resources, and able to achieve this through the judicious application of technology, these societies will be smart about their interaction with their environment. Utilizing local resources such as geothermal, wind, tide, and solar power, with traditional power generation for failsafe operation only, these enclaves will need to be efficient.
We will, in some instances, see a return to an agrarian lifestyle, albeit with a technological twist. In other cases, we will see specialization in technology development, in medicine or transportation, in some other useful function. And we will see a return to a sort of barter system among these enclaves.
I think that environmental, economic and political changes will force this societal adaptation, and that technology will enable it.
So what of the technology? Well, it will cease to be the goal, and once again take it's (IMHO rightful) place as the means. It will become both ubiquitous and embedded, in essence, it will become transparent. Interpersonal communication, globally, will become commonplace. Cashless and paperless transactions will be the matter of course way of doing business. Resource management and contingency planning, as well as economical analysis of markets will become virtually deterministic.
Fiscal speculation will render the stock market effectively anachronistic since though in some areas markets will continue to flourish and drive the local economy, other areas will be able to not care less. Instead of everyone trying to attain a particular standard of living, such as that of the modern American suburbanite, this fragmented and regionally specialized society will strive to attain an optimal standard of living for their particular region, and use any and all technology available to do so.
The world of complexity in the details is immense, and would make for a lovely series of science fiction books, would it not? Fact of fiction, I think that this is the direction we are going in. Though, maybe I'm just being an optimist.
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