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Dan_Lyons's avatar

Are you happy with the Hi Tech Revolution and where it has brought us?

Asked by Dan_Lyons (5452points) June 22nd, 2014

Was life simpler and yes, more profitable in the long run before integrated circuits got faster and cheaper and allowed the whole shebang to take off a-flyin’?

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48 Answers

Mimishu1995's avatar

It would be better if the Hi Tech developed a little slower, and inventors stopped inventing things that replace human in certain tasks.

Seriously, don’t you get tired updating your iPhone? No sooner did iPhone4 come out than iPhone5 appeared. And now many more smartphone are being made, to the point that I can’t decide which to buy.

And a robot that teaches children instead of a real teacher? Does that seem too dependent of people? They seem to forget that gadgets are better when they aid them, not replace them.

dina_didi's avatar

I believe that technology has helped us a lot to better our lives. Everything is much easier. The only problem is that technology has made us believe that it can solve every problem in our lives. When we are using it right, with respect and we are not overusing it, then in my opinion, there is no problem.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Life was simpler just a few years ago when I was in my twenties and there were half as many people on the globe as there is today. Without the technology we have today, many billions of people would not be fed. One can assume that we have avoided constant war, not just the world-wide, low intensity conflicts we have experienced since WWII, but something a lot worse reaching right into our homes and immediate families in the developed countries.

Yes, it’s more complicated. Because of technology, a lot of what I learned in school is now archaic due to new information. People behave differently. Our individual cultures and moral standards are changing before our very eyes, so quickly that a standard in some cases cannot be identified—a speed previously unknown in written history. We’ve become moving targets, difficult to study. Each culture is having problems defining themselves as a people and there is a sense we are all lost—or free, but without knowing our responsibilities in this new freedom. This causes stress between other cultures and nations, and even between religions and races, but especially between the generations within those cultures. It also causes a rush toward older, safer, more reliable but archaic beliefs and methods as we rush forward into history at the speed of light filament.

I read recently that, due to the latest generation of computer design, we have attained more information in the sciences in the last five years than we have in all of history of man put together. So much that it will take years to collate the information. But it means that we know more about our world and ourselves, and how to solve old and new problems. It also means that, if culture is a given society’s assimilation of the cumulative deposit of knowledge, it is forcing rapid change.

It’s complicated, but we do not have a choice in the matter, so try to enjoy the ride.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Times were never as simple as people like to think.

@Espiritus_Corvus “I read recently that, due to the latest generation of computer design, we have attained more information in the sciences in the last five years than we have in all of history of man put together.”

That kinda sounds like it was written by someone who didn’t know what they were talking about honestly.

marinelife's avatar

I hate that technology has removed us a layer from actual experience. Now instead of doing things with people, we skype them or Facebook.

Instead of experiencing life, we are heads down in our smart phones as we travel, walk or ride.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@Darth_Algar Harvard good enough for ya? The statement I read was from an MIT prof speaking of all sciences in general, but this statement is what I found after one cursory internet search. I hope you find the source satisfactory:

“In the last five years, more scientific data has been generated than in the entire history of mankind,” says Winston Hide, associate professor of bioinformatics at HSPH. “You can imagine what’s going to happen in the next five.” And this data isn’t simply linear; genetics and proteomics, to name just two fields of study, generate high-dimensional data, which is fundamentally different in scale.”

jaytkay's avatar

I hate that people spend their time looking at screens instead of talking to each other. It’s sad to see four people around a restaurant table gawking at their phones.

I say as I stare at my computer screen.

That’s just one aspect, though. I think technology overall is benefiting us.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Is Harvard suppose to be some unassailable authority? If someone from Harvard says it it must be true? And “data generated” is quite a bit different from what the earlier statement implies. Anything could be “data generated”. 100 undergraduates each writing 1,000 pages for their studies could be “data generated”. “Data attained”, however, implies new discoveries made. No one who understands modern scientific methods would claim that more discoveries have been made in the last five years than in all of history combined. At least not with a straight face.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Hey, Darth, don’t accept the statement if you don’t want to. It doesn’t change the facts. Are they unassailable? No. They defend their statements constantly before much better minds than yours and therefore are careful when they make them. Their reputations and careers depend on on it.

The statement I quoted has a highly respected source. Your statement, on the other hand, “No one who understands modern scientific methods would claim that more *discoveries have been made in the last five years than in all of history combined. At least not with a straight face.” is an opinion all your own and, basically, pulled directly out of your ass.

*I said information. You are the one who said discoveries. You are now arguing with yourself.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

These are indeed the good ol’ days.

Things will just get better and better.

When it comes to cars I’m a little nervous:

Cars used to be something you basically wore like a suit with a Swiss Army Knife in your pocket.

Now, so much of automotive technology seems to be about isolating the driver from the motoring experience. Sad.

High tech performance hybrids (such as those offered by McLaren, Porsche and Honda) give me hope.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus @Darth_Algar Speaking as someone who collects data… the volumes of data either generated or attained or collected (few will split hairs over these terms in the context of that quote) has no connection with how much we know or have learned. Scientists working in the 19th century contributed a lot to what we know, with very little data to speak of. Any current grad student can (and probably must) now generate reams of data, but answer only very small questions, and contribute next to nothing to our body of knowledge. In fact, some bemoan this sort of number-crunching as a kind of substitute for science, or “what we do when we can’t think of any interesting questions.”

@Espiritus_Corvus You used the fact that we collect lots and lots of “information” to argue that we “know more about the world and ourselves.” This is only as true as it has ever been; it is very far from being a linear relationship. Some say that the number of “big questions” is rising to an asymptote. I would make statements like this with great caution.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

No. The cost of technology has been control. I want control with older technology myself.

ragingloli's avatar

What revolution?

Strauss's avatar

The cost of technology has been lower pay for higher productivity. The promise of technology was that technology would allow the production of more goods and services with fewer hours worked, thus allowing for both higher standards of living and decreased inflationary pressure, since wage increases resulting from increased productivity would not be translated into higher costs for goods and services.

The reality is that capital has not been passed on to the worker for the higher productivity, but has by and large been reabsorbed into corporate coffers as profits. These profits have been used to influence political decisions to weaken the ability of working people to negotiate compensation.

Although advances in civil rights have allowed for multiple incomes in a given household, the failure of supply side economics to “trickle down” to the middle and lower tiers of wage earners (”...we got the down, but we never got the trickle.” Rev. Al Sharpton) has led to a situation in which the average household needs two incomes, or the equivalent of an 80-hour workweek to not quite sustain the standard of living that we desire.

@marinelife I agree. Not only have we as a culture succeeded in placing technological barriers between human beings, we have also succeeded in placing these same types of barriers between us and our food source. When’s the last time a typical American (or European, for that matter) had to take the hog (or chicken, or cow) in to the butcher for processing?

ragingloli's avatar

It is baffling to me that anyone would believe in “trickle down” economics, when the raison d’etre of companies, the maximisation of profit, dictates that they do everything in their power to prevent money from “trickling” down.
Every cent that trickles down, is a cent that is not theirs.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

They believe in that trickle down crap like it is a religion.

Far better to believe in the existence of God than to believe that any part of the capitalist system is not designed for pure profit and plunder.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I like the technology. It has empowered humanity in countless ways. My career and hobbies often involve pushing the limits of certain aspects. This is true for many of us but often we don’t even realize it. Each invention, procedure or architecture opens new possibilities that we then exploit and create more new possibilities. It is both exponential and fractal. The next 50 years are going to be quite a ride. I do however, like to take breaks from it all. A weekend with little more than a bivy, good shoes and the bare necessities is both refreshing somewhat alarming to me. It becomes painfully obvious that we are loosing our connection with nature quickly. Even after a couple of days I’m not ready to get back. Freedom is a complete detachment from all of societies entanglements. When you get back to base things like eating, putting one foot in front of the other and keeping yourself dry without any artificial worries it’s amazing how good you start to feel. I have mixed feelings about our future. I hope that the producer-consumer model starts to shut down and we gain individual control over technology in a more resourceful and harmonious way.

jerv's avatar

Revolution? Try Evolution!

Okay, maybe I am a bit biased as I am a CNC Machinist, and thus rely on technology for a paycheck, but the ability to cut metal to tolerances far smaller than a human hair with repeatability and speed has done wonders for manufacturing. Imagine if every product you owned was either hand-crafted (costing at least 10 times as much in labor) or was absolutely impossible.

Selling things is more profitable than not selling things, whether because there is nothing to sell or merely that it’s too expensive for anyone to afford. Producing things at lower cost is more profitable than producing things at higher cost (and often with lower quality). So while the initial startup costs may be higher due to technology, any business that understands the concept of ROI will (if able) take the initial hit for the sake of long-term profitability. I call bullshit on the “profitable” part.

Now lets shove that aside and look at the thing that actually has been a revolution; the ability to share information with billions of people in seconds. That change was made possible by the integrated circuit not only existing, but dropping in price to where they are commercially viable. Look at how much was spent making a vacuum tube computer in an attempt to slowly decrypt the Enigma cipher during WWII, and then realize that many of us have a phone that is far more powerful and orders of magnitude cheaper, as well as being pocket-sized as opposed to warehouse-sized.

But that shrinking was merely evolutionary. The real revolution was that it led to computers as we know them. Now, instead of waiting months for a ship to deliver a message, or weeks for a film to be processed, copied, and shown to a few people in a movie theater, we can send live images complete with color and sound to the entire planet. Think of what that has done to society. We are now aware of things that have always gone on, but act like they are new things because we were not aware of them before technology. Ideas can be shared with wider audiences.

Basically, the integrated circuit led to a societal change in much the same way as printing presses and literacy did centuries ago. Life was simpler before then, so the fact that you are even literate implies that you don’t actually want a simple life devoid of revolution. Odds are that you just want a life like you had in your youth since you’ve lost the mental agility to be able to adapt to a world that is changing the same way it has always been changing.

@MollyMcGuire Do you drive? If so, then you better be using a clutch, and adjusting the fuel mixture and ignition timing manually as you go down the road. Otherwise, you don’t really want control; you just think you do. And don’t complain about the reduced power, worse emissions, and lower MPG you’d be getting by ditching automated controls like electronic fuel injection.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

@jerv Before we computerized the car, we did fine with carburetors controlled by the butterfly valve and distributors timed directly by the cam shaft.

And no, I do not want a life like my youth nor have I lost my mental agility (if anything I am more agile than ever, and certainly more agile than any young whippersnapper who has less than half of my experience).

And when it comes to adapting, a truly intelligent human being makes the world around him adapt to him. If you cannot do this, you will never escape the bonds of slavery which capitalism inflicts on almost all of us (except of course for those who refuse to accept slavery).

Yes, computers are fun, but we managed nicely without them (before the population quintupled itself since the 60s). And although I have managed to make thousands from ebay and have fun with nice guys like you on social websites, they are completely superfluous.

gondwanalon's avatar

I’d like to tell old folks who suffer from the fast onslaught technology to adapt or be left behind. It’s good for the brain to be continually challenged by learning new things and or new ways of doing things. As I see it we have three choices: get off our butts and learn new skills, try to get out of the way, or kick the bucket.

I’m an old guy but I’m good with advances in technology in which computers are taking over everything including the field of medical technology where I work. I love my ipod and especially my ipad mini as well as my Canon digital camera. They seems like magic to me. My stationary bike has a computer driven motor that is infinitely variable (going up and down hills) with magnetic resistance as well as artificial wind resistance for a ninja quiet ride as well as wifi so I can virtually ride any course on Earth. I’m love’n it and looking forward to a great big beautiful tomorrow where dreams continue to become reality!

jerv's avatar

@Dan_Lyons Just fine?

I happen to have a car with a carb and distributor, and it has issues as a result of that. It makes about ⅔ the horsepower of a modern engine of the same displacement, which has actually put me in danger at times due to the reduced acceleration. (If you don’t think that acceleration matters, then every driver around you in the history of ever has been courteous and attentive, and thus never come close to T-boning/sideswiping you.) At best, that means I have to give it more throttle to achieve the same output (or at least try) leading to lower MPG and still causing notable issues on hills. It cannot adapt to changes in temperature, humidity, altitude, or the quality of gas in the tank, so it’s very inconsistent and actually limits where I can refuel. And no, it’s not the condition of the car; it’s a common thing amongst all of the carb/distributor cars I’ve owned.

In other words, you have shown that you have FAR lower standards of “just fine” than I do; I don’t consider something “just fine” unless it’s reliable and does what I need it to do safely and efficiently.

Technology is humanity’s way of making the world bend to it’s will. Something we don’t like? Change it! Make the world your bitch!

You also have utilities, manufactured products, and (unless you eat straight from a farm) food as a result of technology. Much of it being driven by microprocessors. And if you are even remotely working class, then a few thousand dollars isn’t superfluous; it’s money that made a positive impact on your life in ways that wouldn’t be possible without the integrated circuit.

One may argue that we are a little too reliant on them, but the same could be said of electricity and the internal combustion engine. One could argue that some of the social changes are bad, but is the bad outweighed by the good?

Dan_Lyons's avatar

I had a 1973 Buick Electra in 1988. I rebuilt that motor from the ground up. It was the sweetest 455 motor ever. That car was da bomb. I could fix the distributor with a little hex wrench and adjust the carb with a screwdriver.
It got vastly more power and her performance was far superior to any car I’ve had since.
And it was a huge monster made of heavy steel. talk about safe. And she was a convertible!
Need I go on about my ‘69 Firebird with the 350 or the 64 Ford Galaxie 500 with the 390. It’s a shame you missed the 70s @jerv

ragingloli's avatar

lots of metal =/= safe

dappled_leaves's avatar

There’s a world of difference between feeling safe and actually being safe.

kritiper's avatar

No. It has caused, and is continuing to cause, a huge humanitarian disconnect from one another. Like we were doing any better before!

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ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Carburetors are still cheaper and even cheaper to tune. I think they are ingenious and one of the most elegant contraptions ever to come out of the automotive industry. Their days are numbered as EFI gets cheaper and easier to tune. No more of this driving to the top of a mountain and getting crappy performance.

jerv's avatar

@Dan_Lyons I keep forgetting how honesty is looked down on. Facts matter less than tact and presentation. OP is always right, and dissenting views are always unwelcome. Mea culpa.

@ARE_you_kidding_me That’s why they stick around in applications where their flaws matter less; chainsaws, dirtbikes, and such. There are certain applications where EFI isn’t worthwhile, but automobiles aren’t one of them (except in certain forms of racing where the car is re-tuned almost hourly).

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downtide's avatar

[mod says] Personal attacks are not permitted and have been removed.

jerv's avatar

@Dan_Lyons While it may be possible to make broad adjustments to a carb and distributor with hand tools, EFI will adjust those itself with no tools in milliseconds. In fact, that’s the reason they have O2 sensors and such. And you can reprogram the ECU relatively easy. I fail to see how that’s an advantage.

There are many modern 4-bangers that produce more power than your old muscle cars, and if they’re safer then explain how I got worse injuries in a ‘73 Nova than in an ‘85 Corolla half the weight in roughly equivalent accidents. I’ll take 320 hp at 26 MPG over 240 hp at 12 MPG any day, especially when the former can actually corner and will really protect me in a wreck.

Part of the reason for that also has to do with what ICs have allowed manufacturing to do. Your old muscle car has sloppy-fitting parts, unbalanced connecting rods, and all sorts of flaws related to old manufacturing techniques that mean blueprinting can add considerable performance. The same technology that made EFI also drives the machines I use at work; the ones that produce parts good enough that all modern engines are already blueprinted from the factory.

So, in every way which is empirically provable, cars are better because of technology. Aesthetics are subjective, and new cars are actually just as easy to work on if you update your skills.

jerv's avatar

@SecondHandStoke I thought so too, until the F20C . Breaking 120hp/liter without resorting to forced induction is admirable. Of course, I also have to respect Mazda’s Renesis; 238hp from a 247 pound motor (again naturally aspirated) is just cool

Bill1939's avatar

The invention and proliferation of the electric light has radically changed how we live. However, light pollution has greatly reduced the number of stars visible in the night sky especially in cities. The development of materials and machinery has led to the construction and concentration of tall buildings that has created canyons in cities limiting the depth of vistas once common. This compression of spacial perception changes the interpretation of experience.

Horses and carriages have been replaced by trains, personal vehicles, and planes that extended the range an individual can quickly travel. This resulted in families that once included several generations living in close proximity to be dispersed across the country. While the invention of books, newspapers, telephones, radio, television, personal computers and now the internet connected people across the nation and world, relationships have become increasingly superficial.

Automation, thanks to the development of integrated circuits, has accelerated the diminishing need for labor. Educational requirements for employment evolved from learning to read, write and become proficient in simple arithmetic, to high school courses in advance mathematics, foreign languages and sciences, to college degrees specialized in one or more of these areas. However, even those who can afford post graduate degrees are finding decreasing opportunities for employment.

At first society, aided by their government and religious authorities, resists every change in their life style. Most eventually adapt to the evolving reality, especially the children. However as the youth matures, they too, will be confronted by the unexpected consequences resulting from progress and will contest change. Every blessing that technology brings will also include a curse.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

@jerv The advantage to repairing my automobile using hand tools vs. needing $150,000 diagnostic equipment is quite obvious to anyone.

jerv's avatar

@Dan_Lyons You added three too many zeroes; OBDII scanners cost $150-ish for a full-featured one, and the stuff required to interface a laptop with the ECU in order to edit the fuel/ignition maps is about there too. If you consider that too much then there’s no way you can afford to run a 15 MPG V8 instead of a more powerful 25 MPG V6; the difference in fuel costs would impoverish you within three months.
Also, the time savings can be immense. But maybe my time is far more valuable than your’s, so you’re willing to spend hours tracking down subtle problems that OBDII could find in seconds… possibly saving the cost of unneeded part replacement due to wrong guesses.
Again, you use a falsehood to “prove” yourself correct, and again, I use facts to disagree.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

When my Buick Electra 225 was tuned and timed properly @jerv she got 20 MPG. This back when gas cost 99 cents a gallon.
I doubt that your time is more valuable than mine.
Again you use falsehoods and conjecture to argue your point while I use only facts.

jerv's avatar

@Dan_Lyons I used this and my own experience with similar cars (old American V8s that got 12–18 MPG). Kudos for tweaking your’s to well-above-average MPG. For a 225 hp engine (assuming your’s is stock, and still less than many modern sixes) that yields about the same acceleration as my wife’s old 28 mpg 1.9 liter Saturn Wagon. A car that had less power and lower MPG than the cars made now, a mere 15 years later.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

hahaha, Yeah, right. Like my old 455 wouldn’t put your wife’s wagon to shame in a race. Nice try my friend. Have a nice day @jerv .

jerv's avatar

@Dan_Lyons Are you denying that 9,6 seconds is less than 10.1 seconds? Or are you saying that your car is more tuned (or a different trim) than the one I pulled up stats for?

Dan_Lyons's avatar

Now you know how fast my car was 20 years ago? Wow @jerv, you are good.

jerv's avatar

I think we’ve proven that there will always be resistance to change as some will continue to insist that the old ways are better even when proven otherwise. Now, there are some ideas that work and need little change; that’s why wheels are still round. But air-filled tires on metal rims sure beats all-wooden wheels with an iron band around then, so even proven technologies can be improved.

Telephone superceded the telegraph. Live TV took over for weeks-old news film. Much technology is not actually new, but merely refinement or enhancement of the old.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

No matter how sophisticated they become, all internal combustion engines are “the old ways.”

Whether it’s a Rolls Royce V12 that only made 230hp or the latest small displacement, high compression, 9K RPM engineering masterwork.

It’s the ingenuity that impresses. The latest, most cutting edge motor is based on a now quite old principle, after countless innovations becoming the marvel we have today.

SecondHandStoke's avatar


Doubtless you believe “there’s no replacement for displacement.”

In practical terms there is. It’s called efficiency. In other words you can think of your enormous cubic inches as a means to negate the inefficiency inherent in your V8’s design.

Not that there’s anything wrong with V8’s. Nothing sounds like a 5 litre Mustang. The downside is that V8 comes attached to abysmal build quality and until very recently a rear live axle?????

So, should I join those idiots that are putting LS’s into innocent Honda S2000s? No. I’d never upset the perfect balance that makes the S2000 “nirvana on a racetrack.”

Output per litre is the benchmark. BMW and Honda have understood this for a long time.

Bill1939's avatar

While steam and internal combustion engines and electric motors have been greatly improved, they are based upon centuries old concepts. New methods of converting energy to motion should be devised in the future, though I have no idea what they might be.

jerv's avatar

@Bill1939 Quite so. Over a century ago, electric cars outnumbered gas ones. So while the Tesla Roadster and Model S are new, at their roots they’re really just a modern iteration of something that’s been around for a long time; less revolutionary than evolutionary.

@SecondHandStoke You might get a kick out of this.

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