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Old 08-13-2019, 11:42 PM
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Just how advanced is modern technology?


If you had to score planet Earth as a whole on how advanced its technology is what would you rate it?
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Old 08-13-2019, 11:50 PM
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We've barely scratched the surface of nanotechnology and bio-engineering. And our technological base relies on the use of finite resources, which means it's not currently sustainable. We clearly have areas where we can make major advances.
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Old 08-14-2019, 12:00 AM
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It's the most advanced planet we know of. But we still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea, so we have a ways to improve.
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Old 08-14-2019, 12:00 AM
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I don't think we'll ever stop advancing, so I'm not sure how to answer that.

Compare today to 1919.
I can't even imagine 2119.
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Old 08-14-2019, 12:05 AM
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As of 2017, we were a 0.7279 on Sagan's Kardashev scale. Tangentially related (relates to energy development), but at least quantifiable.
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Old 08-14-2019, 01:09 AM
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Much of what we do would be indistinguishable from magic for the people who wrote the Bible. On the other hand, if we ever develop Star Trek technology that would be indistinguishable from magic for us.
It is hard to rate without a scale, but we can imagine lots of possible technology (like AI, maybe) which we don't have yet.
If someone wants a quantitative rating, I'd suggest going through a bunch of science fiction from the 50s say and today, collect technological developments, discard the scientifically impossible ones, ad them together, count the ones from the '50s which we now have (or have better) divide this by the total number of developments, and get a rating.

I leave that as an exercise for the reader.
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Old 08-14-2019, 06:20 AM
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Are we grading on a curve?
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Old 08-14-2019, 06:32 AM
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"Mostly harmless".
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Old 08-14-2019, 06:41 AM
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It depends on who is judging and in what time frame. In 100 years, assuming our civilization doesn't crash, we will look at today's technology the way we look at the technology of 100 years ago.
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Old 08-14-2019, 07:30 AM
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Of course it's unknowable. But I usually regard us as way down at the bottom still.
Which is great: as long as we can keep making progress Nature will keep giving us fascinating things to discover for a long while yet.
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Old 08-14-2019, 07:35 AM
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If you had to score planet Earth as a whole on how advanced its technology is what would you rate it?
F.
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Old 08-14-2019, 07:39 AM
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If you had to score planet Earth as a whole...
I don't even know what this means.
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Old 08-14-2019, 07:44 AM
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Quoth Voyager:

Much of what we do would be indistinguishable from magic for the people who wrote the Bible.
Much of what we do is indistinguishable from magic for most people today.

But since there really isn't any way to factually answer this question,

[Moderating]
Moving to IMHO
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Old 08-14-2019, 08:06 AM
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Much of what we do is indistinguishable from magic for most people today.
Yes, and I've always thought of it as a somewhat misleading, although technically accurate, thought.

Humans are very adaptable, and also good at abstraction. So generally the time interval between being in awe of a new technology, and just integrating it into everyday life and considering it mundane (even while still having no idea how it works), is pretty short.
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Old 08-14-2019, 08:29 AM
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I want something. I say it out loud. A few hours later it’s at my door. How is that not magic. The few hours delay knocks it down to 9 out of ten. When Amazon develops instantaneous delivery we will be at 9.5. When they can anticipate my wish and get it there before I utter it, we will be at 9.9.
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Old 08-14-2019, 08:32 AM
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I should add that I want to know where technology rates relative to what is theoretically possible, or what would be possible if cost were no issue.
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Old 08-14-2019, 08:47 AM
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Well, what do you mean by "if cost were no issue"? That Bill Gates could do it if he wanted? That the United States government could do it if it wanted? That if all of the billions of people on the planet agreed that they wanted it and pooled all of their resources beyond what's needed for survival? That we wait until we populate the entire Galaxy, and then pool all of the Galaxy's resources?
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Old 08-14-2019, 10:51 AM
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What does physics say the limit of technology is? And how close are we to it?
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Old 08-14-2019, 11:08 AM
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We are at the stage were some things are very, very hard to improve. Microchips, for example. We have reached the point where some parts of a transistor are just a few atoms wide, and quantum tunneling is getting to be a major factor (data leaking away.) Aircraft speed is another--the supersonic Blackbird got so hot while in flight that it had to be designed with loose, leaky fuel lines while on the ground because they would heat and expand during flight, plus the plane had to fuel up after taking off because it needed an inert gas in the fuel tanks. Don't expect microchips and high-speed aircraft of 100, 1,000, or 100,000 years from now to be hugely more powerful than they are today.
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Old 08-14-2019, 11:11 AM
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What does physics say the limit of technology is? And how close are we to it?
Physics doesn’t say anything. Technology is not monolithic. It’s not a game of civilization where fusion power and stealth are situated at the peak and once you get there there’s nothing left to research but useless, undefined "future technology" advancements.

Technology must be constrained by physical laws, and known physical laws include a hard limit on the speed of light and therefore information transfer, but there's more to technological development than just speed.

If you’re asking if there’s ever a point in time in which humans could exist, without having been blown back into the Stone Age, and yet reach a point where nothing new could ever be invented (the "end" of technology), then I think the obvious answer is "never gonna happen."

And of course there’s always the outside chance that our understanding of the universe may change and the "laws of physics" as we currently understand them will be in need of amendment.

Last edited by ASL v2.0; 08-14-2019 at 11:12 AM.
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Old 08-14-2019, 11:32 AM
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Well, at the risk of sounding like the guy who said "close down the patent office. Everything has already been invented.", what IF things we predict for the future won't work?

What if the universe does not allow at all faster than light drive, reactionless thrusters, teleportation, Star trek-like senor tech, tractor beams, force fields? What if it is essentially impossible because of power and weight and shielding considerations to travel faster than say .2c?

What if matter-energy conversion just won't work on a useful scale (no portable replicators)? What if nano-tech just won't work (that you can't make a complicated circuit small enough)? What if there are no undiscovered super strong materials to make space elevators or ringworlds or whatnot out of? What if controllable fusion power just isn't possible on a useful scale? What if hard wiring into a mind just isn't possible?

That is, what if it isn't a question of technology advancement, but fundamental laws of the universe?

Then maybe we actually are near the top of the technology scale. And no one will ever know, because space travel would be for all purposes impossible. Maybe this is all there is?
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Old 08-14-2019, 11:44 AM
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What if the universe does not allow at all faster than light drive, reactionless thrusters, teleportation, Star trek-like senor tech, tractor beams, force fields?
Then the people who think of science fiction as "syfy" will be greatly disappointed but the people who study real science won't be remotely suprised. Add to that anti-gravity, (non-accelerational) artificial gravity, tiny but human-level or beyond AIs, and open air 3D holograms.
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Old 08-14-2019, 12:10 PM
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What does physics say the limit of technology is?
Physics has no idea.
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Old 08-14-2019, 12:47 PM
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What if the universe does not allow at all faster than light drive, reactionless thrusters, teleportation, Star trek-like senor tech, tractor beams, force fields? What if it is essentially impossible because of power and weight and shielding considerations to travel faster than say .2c?
Why would any of that stop us from developing interstellar travel? We could send interstellar probes using principles we already know about - it's just a matter of making the designs more mature and/or allocating more resources. Even human interstellar travel is likely possible if we devote enough resources to it.

Quote:
What if matter-energy conversion just won't work on a useful scale (no portable replicators)? What if nano-tech just won't work (that you can't make a complicated circuit small enough)? What if there are no undiscovered super strong materials to make space elevators or ringworlds or whatnot out of? What if controllable fusion power just isn't possible on a useful scale? What if hard wiring into a mind just isn't possible? .....

Then maybe we actually are near the top of the technology scale. And no one will ever know, because space travel would be for all purposes impossible. Maybe this is all there is?
Do you honestly see no middle ground between where we are now, and the fantasy world of Star Trek where anything can be replicated, a bus-sized spaceship can take you to another star in a few days, and even travel through time at will?
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Old 08-14-2019, 03:20 PM
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Don't expect microchips and high-speed aircraft of 100, 1,000, or 100,000 years from now to be hugely more powerful than they are today.
Then we'll find alternatives to microchips and high-speed aircraft. We don't still use vacuum tubes and biplanes.
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Old 08-14-2019, 03:27 PM
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We are at the stage were some things are very, very hard to improve. Microchips, for example. We have reached the point where some parts of a transistor are just a few atoms wide, and quantum tunneling is getting to be a major factor (data leaking away.) Aircraft speed is another--the supersonic Blackbird got so hot while in flight that it had to be designed with loose, leaky fuel lines while on the ground because they would heat and expand during flight, plus the plane had to fuel up after taking off because it needed an inert gas in the fuel tanks. Don't expect microchips and high-speed aircraft of 100, 1,000, or 100,000 years from now to be hugely more powerful than they are today.
IN fact, in terms of passenger aircraft, we have stepped back a bit. In the 1970s the Concorde flew you across the ocean at Mach 2.0 . Now, and for the foreseeable future, we are limited to subsonic.

There is an argument that has been made that, with the exception of computers, there hasn't been a lot of progress since the 1970s.

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Old 08-14-2019, 03:30 PM
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As of 2017, we were a 0.7279 on Sagan's Kardashev scale. Tangentially related (relates to energy development), but at least quantifiable.
I think more in terms of the cost of energy. A lot of amazing tech advances can happen with much cheaper energy.

So, real life, no kidding, fusion would be very nice if it merely matches the cost of current () sources. Lot's of pluses there. But if it is even cheaper, then things change a lot.

But note that there's a lot of base costs that keep things from becoming "free". Even solar power is now dominated by all the secondary costs and not cell efficiency, etc.

And we don't know if there's a real breakthrough possible or not. So where we on the scale when we don't know the range is impossible.
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Old 08-14-2019, 04:00 PM
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Planet earth as a whole has terrible technology; the vast vast majority of the earth's population only has access to medium quality technology; many have access to far, far worse. And that's only talking about the populated areas! Large chunks of the earth's surface is covered with water sporting no greater technology than pollutants and garbage.
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Old 08-14-2019, 04:20 PM
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Large chunks of the earth's surface is covered with water sporting no greater technology than pollutants and garbage.
Nomadic tribespeople scraping out a meager existence on the fringes of the habitable regions during the last ice age would have killed for a plastic bag. How dare you disparage the pacific garbage patch!
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Old 08-14-2019, 04:39 PM
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Don't expect microchips and high-speed aircraft of 100, 1,000, or 100,000 years from now to be hugely more powerful than they are today.
100 years ago the Sopwith Camel was the epitome of aviation achievement

1000 years ago a "computer" was a bunch of beads sliding back and forth on wires.

100,000 years ago, cutting edge technology was a "rock".


I think it's impossible to predict how civilization will change from various scientific advancements over the next hundred years, let alone a length of time longer than "civilization" has even existed.



Quote:
Originally Posted by zimaane
IN fact, in terms of passenger aircraft, we have stepped back a bit. In the 1970s the Concorde flew you across the ocean at Mach 2.0 . Now, and for the foreseeable future, we are limited to subsonic.

There is an argument that has been made that, with the exception of computers, there hasn't been a lot of progress since the 1970s.
If your only metric was top speed, then yes. However, it's not like mankind lost the secret to faster than sound air travel.

And lets not dismiss the impact of computers on every aspect of ..well...basically everything.

I think it's hard to visualize much of the progress made over the past 40+ years because much of it is in things like materials, fuel efficiency, safety, ergonomics, manufacturing. These advances aren't as obvious as ones from a few centuries ago such as moving from farms to factories or suddenly having electric lights on every block.
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Old 08-14-2019, 05:08 PM
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We are not at the point of A,B,C,D,F grades and the like. We are too young for that, we would get a F and not even understand the questions if we had a flat level test. However our current ability includes our ability to progress, in that a basic score can be evaluated.

I would first rate it us as perhaps pre-K or K level at most. Actually perhaps a step back to nursery school. As our grades are age dependent. In such a school we get 'needs improvement 'in plays well with others'. As for the question our technology, it's for us 'able to put some bricks together to form different objects' I think we will be categorizes as very good, excels at such tasks.
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Old 08-14-2019, 05:36 PM
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Then we'll find alternatives to microchips and high-speed aircraft. We don't still use vacuum tubes and biplanes.
That sounds much more like religious conviction than scientific certainty. What--exactly--do you propose for sub-atomic, cheap, room-temperature general purpose computers? It won't be quantum computers or DNA or other molecular computers--those are faster only in very specialized areas. It won't be optical computers or gallium arsinide computers or graphine computers--those would be only a bit faster than current computers, nothing to match the orders of magnitude increases in the past 50 years. What do you propose to use other than atoms, electrons, or photons?

Science isn't magic. Just because you wish something is possible doesn't make it possible.
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Old 08-14-2019, 05:57 PM
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Don't expect microchips and high-speed aircraft of 100, 1,000, or 100,000 years from now to be hugely more powerful than they are today.
I fully expect to see microchips/cpus hugely more powerful than today. We may be hitting the limits of current processor design, but that doesn't mean other approaches being investigated will all fail.
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Old 08-14-2019, 06:00 PM
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I look at it this way, the Romans could probably reverse engineer most of 1900 technology. Today's tech, no chance. In 100 years we progressed more then we did in 2000 years.
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Old 08-14-2019, 06:00 PM
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Why would any of that stop us from developing interstellar travel? We could send interstellar probes using principles we already know about - it's just a matter of making the designs more mature and/or allocating more resources. Even human interstellar travel is likely possible if we devote enough resources to it.



Do you honestly see no middle ground between where we are now, and the fantasy world of Star Trek where anything can be replicated, a bus-sized spaceship can take you to another star in a few days, and even travel through time at will?
What good is interstellar travel in the short term if it takes thousands of years to get anywhere? How fast do you think a probe using principles we already know about is going to go? If you can't go fast, interstellar probes will only return data to your great^X grandchildren, at best. Good for humanity, not good for carving out a space empire.

But you missed my point.I'm not saying we're at the end of technology. I was asking WHAT IF you can't invent anything more. All this "well, we'll just invent it" is just almost a religious belief. All this talk of the glorious future that someday we'll understand. What if this is it? We may understand the universe better, but what if that understanding means we know for sure that we can't do anything with it. You can't change G. You can't have a hadron computer.
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Old 08-14-2019, 07:04 PM
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How is our technology relative to The Expanse? What about Interstellar?

Why can we not make wood in the lab? Trees make it out of air, so you would think it would be simple.
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Old 08-14-2019, 07:39 PM
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100,000 years ago, cutting edge technology was a "rock".
But you had to break the rock to actually get a cutting edge...
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Old 08-14-2019, 07:53 PM
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But we still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea, so we have a ways to improve.
Well, let's be fair: A lot of the younger hairless apes have progressed on to thinking smartphones are a pretty neat idea.
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But you had to break the rock to actually get a cutting edge...
"...The secret is to bang the rocks together, guys."
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Old 08-14-2019, 08:09 PM
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Why can we not make wood in the lab? Trees make it out of air, so you would think it would be simple.
We don't need to make wood in the lab, we have trees. What we do have is 3D printing which is much more powerful.
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Old 08-14-2019, 08:40 PM
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Not very. Modern technology arguably didn't even start until the industrial revolution (arguably it goes back to the scientific revolution and agricultural revolution before that).

But most modern tech is under 150 years old or so.

Seeing how the universe will continue to exist for a long time, we've barely begun. Stars will exist for trillions of years. Black holes for far longer. I'm guessing a future society will learn how to travel to younger universes, create new universes, etc which means their tech will continue near indefinitely.

So in that scale, we are embryonic at best. .
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Old 08-14-2019, 08:54 PM
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I'm guessing a future society will learn how to travel to younger universes, create new universes, etc which means their tech will continue near indefinitely.
And what is your basis for that, other than the wildest of fantasies?
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Old 08-14-2019, 09:11 PM
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Well, at the risk of sounding like the guy who said "close down the patent office. Everything has already been invented.", what IF things we predict for the future won't work?

What if the universe does not allow at all faster than light drive, reactionless thrusters, teleportation, Star trek-like senor tech, tractor beams, force fields? What if it is essentially impossible because of power and weight and shielding considerations to travel faster than say .2c?

What if matter-energy conversion just won't work on a useful scale (no portable replicators)? What if nano-tech just won't work (that you can't make a complicated circuit small enough)? What if there are no undiscovered super strong materials to make space elevators or ringworlds or whatnot out of? What if controllable fusion power just isn't possible on a useful scale? What if hard wiring into a mind just isn't possible?

That is, what if it isn't a question of technology advancement, but fundamental laws of the universe?

Then maybe we actually are near the top of the technology scale. And no one will ever know, because space travel would be for all purposes impossible. Maybe this is all there is?
I don't think those things would really be that limiting in some ways. Even if speed is limited to 0.2c, we could traverse the galaxy in half a million years. So the entire galaxy could be colonized. Not sure if we could travel to other galaxies at that speed.

Even if controlled fusion power wasn't realistic, a dyson sphere type device could be possible.

Also, one theory for what'll happen is we will start moving to a VR environment where we aren't limited by the laws of physics. Going all over the universe to explore dead planets may lose its luster when we have infinite VR environments to explore at home.

Plus there is a lot of room for improvement in biotechnology. We've probably barely scratched the surface of what is possible with biology.
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Old 08-14-2019, 09:40 PM
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And what is your basis for that, other than the wildest of fantasies?
My wildest of fantasies.
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Old 08-14-2019, 10:06 PM
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What good is interstellar travel in the short term if it takes thousands of years to get anywhere? How fast do you think a probe using principles we already know about is going to go? If you can't go fast, interstellar probes will only return data to your great^X grandchildren, at best.
Where are you getting these numbers from? You yourself gave 0.2c as a pessimistic limit. Even at that speed, there are a dozen star systems within 50 years travel time. And the principles we already know about will allow faster speeds - laser propelled solar sails for example.


Quote:
But you missed my point.I'm not saying we're at the end of technology. I was asking WHAT IF you can't invent anything more. All this "well, we'll just invent it" is just almost a religious belief. All this talk of the glorious future that someday we'll understand. What if this is it? We may understand the universe better, but what if that understanding means we know for sure that we can't do anything with it. You can't change G. You can't have a hadron computer.
I answered your question: even with the principles we already know about, there are limitless applications, and limitless potential for technological advancement. So what if we can't make computers out of other semiconductors, and we've already hit the limit of feature size for silicon? That just means we find other ways to improve performance. We've been seeing some of those technologies already - multiple cores, multiple processors, stacked ICs, pipelining, etc. None of those require new principles to be discovered, they are just ways to make better technology using the same principles.

Most inventions and technological advances don't require new principles of science to be invented. It's all just new ways to put together the same building blocks in a new way, and maybe do it a little better, cheaper, etc. Think about how we put a man on the Moon - we did it by finding a better way to burn hydrogen with oxygen, and finding a new use for it.
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Old 08-14-2019, 10:50 PM
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Well, at the risk of sounding like the guy who said "close down the patent office. Everything has already been invented.", what IF things we predict for the future won't work?
I am sure that most of the things we predict for the future are incorrect.

However, even if we posit that we only solve the known-unknowns, and only manage to achieve with technology things we can see are possibile in nature, that's already a world very different from the one that you and I inhabit.

For example I am with you on some of the what-ifs, but on others:

Quote:
What if nano-tech just won't work (that you can't make a complicated circuit small enough)?
[...]What if hard wiring into a mind just isn't possible?
Both these things we know must be possible because we see them in nature. So the question becomes more like "What if humans find the only way to make neural interfaces is to use organic matter, but we decree that if it ain't copper wires and silicon transistors, we ain't doin' it?"

Quote:
That is, what if it isn't a question of technology advancement, but fundamental laws of the universe?

Then maybe we actually are near the top of the technology scale. And no one will ever know, because space travel would be for all purposes impossible. Maybe this is all there is?
The first thing to say is, yes, it's possible. Certainly no-one can rule out that we are near the top, it's unknowable, as I said in my previous post.

We can however rule out "this is all there is" because there are plenty of pheomena where we currently have either have an incomplete model, or no model at all. So we know our picture is not complete.
  #46  
Old 08-14-2019, 11:40 PM
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We suck. In the 1950s, they said we'd have flying cars. I want my flying car damnit!
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Old 08-15-2019, 12:43 AM
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Honestly, I feel that computing power plateaued about five years ago. The machines I use for my job (I'm a desktop software developer) aren't appreciably faster these days. There's more cores usually, and lots of GPU resources, but the majority of software (including what I use to write software) are single threaded and about the same speed in 2019 as 2014. CPU core speed is stuck, apparently permanently, under 4ghz and has been since forever.
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Old 08-15-2019, 12:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Darren Garrison View Post
We are at the stage were some things are very, very hard to improve. Microchips, for example. We have reached the point where some parts of a transistor are just a few atoms wide, and quantum tunneling is getting to be a major factor (data leaking away.)
Advances in silicon only come partially from more advanced process nodes. There is a lot of interesting stuff in packaging, so chips don't have to go through I/O buffers to talk to each other, and we already have redundancy built in so that an entire chip doesn't have to work. Standard for memories today, also used for multi-processor systems. There is also interesting work on new transistor technologies, liked multi or stacked gate transistors. The generic term is more than Moore.
I'm dubious about quantum stuff, but I've gone through a couple of moves to bigger wafers, and there will surely be more in the future.

Transistor sizing is only one factor in the power of a chip.
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Old 08-15-2019, 12:55 AM
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IN fact, in terms of passenger aircraft, we have stepped back a bit. In the 1970s the Concorde flew you across the ocean at Mach 2.0 . Now, and for the foreseeable future, we are limited to subsonic.

There is an argument that has been made that, with the exception of computers, there hasn't been a lot of progress since the 1970s.
The failure of the Concorde was due to the market and economics, not technology. Gold plated Q-tips not selling is not due to the plating process.

When it takes longer to get in and out of an airport than across the ocean with an SST, it means you are focusing on the wrong problem.
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Old 08-15-2019, 06:33 AM
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There is an argument that has been made that, with the exception of computers, there hasn't been a lot of progress since the 1970s.
That's because there haven't been any more flying saucers crashing in New Mexico to reverse-engineer since the 1940s
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