Persistent technology

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I came across the Skeptics’ Guide to the Future, by Steven Novella, totally by chance this week.

This book discusses how past futurists foresaw the future, arguing about what they got right or wrong, and this made me instantly start reading it. Among other things it argues how much people tend to underestimate how long technology from the past will persist into the future.

It made me think of The Jetsons, the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon I loved watching as a kid. In their 1962 vision of how a meal would be prepared in the 21st century, all it took was the clicking of some buttons on panels for your food to show up on the table from compartments opened as soon as cooking was (almost instantly) done.

Except that in the 21st century, modern cooking — shopping for groceries, cutting, slicing, baking, grilling, — hasn’t changed so dramatically. Anyone from 50 (or even more) years ago, depending on the recipe, could perfectly recognize the process.

So, old technology can really stick. And I love how some old technology is part of my life, living side by side with my smartphone and microwave. I love TV, something invented in the 1950’s, and I’m still wearing a wristwatch, no matter how old fashioned it might make me look, because I love to check the time the way my father taught me to do.

I also like paper books better than my Kindle ones because of their bonus feature: the unbeatable nice smell. And I love listening to the radio, specially while I drive, because that’s my favorite way to be updated with news. Driving, by the way, is still done on the ground. And our modern cars would likely look ordinary to any drivers from the 1950s, except, of course, if they checked inside and saw the GPS and things like parking sensors and cruise control.

All of this makes me wonder how people mix old and new technology in their own lives…

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