Sunday, November 28, 2010

Be thankful for technological bounty ~ By Phil Elmore

. . . Despite the misgivings we might have about the inexorable integration of modern technology with modern life, the benefits generally outweigh the liabilities.

Yes, we must remain vigilant for the many ways technology can intrude in our lives. We must remain aware of the countless ways it can be used to infringe on our civil liberties. We must remain skeptical of government applications that use technology to facilitate overreaches of power and invasions of privacy. But technology, while neither good nor evil, is far more often used to help us than to harm us. The advancement of technology is the advancement of society. In our technologically advanced age, how can we be anything but thankful, despite the problems, the pitfalls and the complications that age visits on us?
I don't believe that Phil Elmore could have had any idea that this column will be what inspires a 7 year-old kid by the name of Zefram Cochrane to eventually build a space ship that could go into warp speed, and make first contact. Or, then again, when Phil mused, "The advancement of technology is the advancement of society," maybe he did know!

I was looking for some old Star Trek clips from the original TV series to put with this commentary on Phil's column, but then I came across the following video. It didn't take long, by the Grace of God, to figure out that this was the one to use! You'll understand why after you watch this video and read Phil's column:

First Contact

Video provided by ncc1701dotus

But here's the thing: Most of us will never see the Phoenix launch into hyper-space at warp speed. However, those of us in the baby-boomer generation or older have seen technological innovations at warp speed. Think about it: An amazing innovation when I was a kid was when TVs became available in color; radios weren't even available yet when my parents were kids. So, can you imagine what my generation and those in previous generations are thinking when we see what is available now?

Video provided by TheREALjohnny2k

I know... It's a long way from the iPod Nano to warp-drive space craft, and many of us will not be around to see interstellar flight. However, it is those of us that won't be around THEN that are going to need to lead the way in making sure that our freedom to innovate stays intact. We have to be the ones to make sure that people like Sir Richard Branson are allowed the opportunity to create or invent, achieve, and prosper by limiting government interference through taxes, regulation and bureaucracy.

Okay, let me just be upfront and cut to the chase: Entrepreneurs, inventors and innovators are motivated by being rewarded for their ingenuity through the free market system. That reward is usually tied to a financial return on their investment of time and/or capital. If the government steps in to confiscate too much of that reward and/or stymies the efforts of those that wish to succeed, the incentive to advance our technologies are diluted.

And as long as I'm on a roll, I'll mention the fact that too many government mandated entitlements tend to decrease the motivation to take the risks necessary to advance our technology.  If the government is just going to confiscate your financial rewards through redistribution of your wealth to entitlement programs and bureaucrats, why bother?  If you want to see the next generation of new technologies, we need to keep the government out of the way. Just sayin'...

This Thanksgiving, take the time truly to give thanks. Cherish your family. Be grateful for what you have. Take the time to wonder, truly, at the technological bounty you take for granted. There are devices, functions, applications all around you that affect you every single day. Overwhelmingly, that effect is a good one; with a few exceptions, technology makes your life better. Be glad. Be happy. Be awed.
Be thankful for technological bounty
By Phil Elmore

November 25, 2010 ~ 1:00 am Eastern

© 2010

Recently, I had my first Skype phone call. For those of you who don't know, Skype is one of many "Voice Over IP," or VoIP, services. These enable users to make phone calls using the Internet. An elaborate variety of phones for Skype and VoIP services are available, but in my case all I needed was my computer, a microphone and a webcam.

As I chatted with my business contact, who was seated in his library several states away, I marveled at the high sound quality and the clear picture – a picture that was better on his than on mine, if it matters, because he had a better-quality camera. We wrapped up our business concerning some freelance writing projects and I reached for the mouse.

Then it hit me. It's the future.

The same sensation came to me during a late-night drive on the busy four-lane highway carved across most of the breadth of New York State. Every car that passed me had glowing lights inside. I saw countless GPS devices, DVD players and kids playing video games ... all in the comfort of their cars at 75 miles per hour. As a child, I dreamed of being able to watch television or play video games during the four-hour drive across the state to visit my grandparents. Now, kids take those fantasies for granted. If they don't have a video-game system in their parents' cars, they've got one in their pockets – and that portable device with its full-color screen plays games more advanced than those I played on the primitive Atari and Nintendo consoles of my youth.

It's the future. Everything we ever dreamed about, everything we ever pictured in science fiction movies and television, has come to pass. Sure, we're still a ways away from the jet packs and rocket cars laughably predicted for the late '70s by magazines like Popular Mechanics, but we've got robots performing surgery. Our cars talk to us, know where we are and tell us where we need to go. Our phones have access to the Internet and thousands of other applications both useful and pointless, up to and including telling us what song we're listening to.

Now think about a typical episode of "Star Trek." Take out the matter teleportation and the spaceships, and what have you got left? A computer that can play almost any music ever recorded and answer almost every question ever asked of it. Communication devices that connect every member of the crew, often presented as small folding devices carried on the belt. Computers that run and control everything, from individual pieces of transportation to larger networks governing industrial processes if not entire cities. The ability to see anything, anywhere, within reason and range, and the ability to contact just about anyone, too, at any time.

Is that so different from the world we live in now? It isn't. It's identical.

If anything, the world we now occupy is, in some key ways, more advanced than "Star Trek" ever thought of being, if only because there are technological applications we now take for granted that people even 10 years ago, much less 20 or 30, could not have imagined. Social networking is a good example; Scotty never would have said, "The Twitter feed canna hold nae more than 140 characters, Captain!"


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