This past weekend something crossed my mind. I began to look at how far we have come as a species and how we have progressed technologically from the use of stick and stones to weapons of such unimaginable destruction that for the first time we have power to destroy, not only the entire planet, but also every living thing on it, multiple times over. Except for Cock Roaches and Twinkies of course, those things will last forever. We have gone thought the Neolithic Age (which I think is the first “age”), Stone Age, Tin Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman, Medieval Period, Post Medieval Period just to name a few. I would add the Renaissance in there but I am not a historian, it was just introduction of Western thought and ideas, no big deal though.
I purposefully left off the last few ages or periods that humans have managed to find themselves in. The first it the Industrial Age. I am sure you are aware that this age started in or around the 1800’s with the Industrial Revolution and the invention of the steam engine. This device changed the game and for the first time humans were able to use heavy machinery to do much of the hard and manual labor that was required for modern civilization. This was obviously a huge advancement in our civilization which led right into the next era and or age of our civilization.
I would say that sometime in the 1950’s the Industrial Age began to shift, slowly, to a new and exciting technology. This new age, the Information Age, propelled humanity into another level of technology. This age has come about because of the computer and the invention of the transistor. This drastically and dramatically propelled our computing technology to an extreme level. Currently we are reaching the upper limits of what our computing power can accomplish. I say that because I have read that we are approaching the limit of how small we can make transistors and processors. I am not saying that your computer will never be faster than it is right now, but we are getting close to where Moore’s Law may no longer hold true. That is, on some level alarming, but on another level it opens the door for the next level of technology. Way back when vacuum tubes powered massive computers. Those tubes were impractical and within a few years we had already run out of room for them inside the machines. So scientist had to come up with an alternate solution, and that solution was the transistor. So my point is that despite us reaching the limits of this technology, this should – should, mind you, drive the innovation to replace it. Remember, necessity is the mother of all invention.
That is all well and good, so we have had many different eras and ages throughout our civilization. We have gone from using sticks and stones, to have almost infinite amounts of information at our fingertips in a short 200,000 years. Which is no time at all geologically speaking. Again that is all pretty cool, but what is next, what is the next age of our civilization? What comes after the Information Age?
I would say that it is almost impossible to have imagined that during the industrial revolution humans would have created a massive network of information that is available anywhere and anytime, or handheld devices capable of delivering that same information. The internet is one of those things that a few along the way have somewhat predicted, but no one really nailed it. So again I ask what comes next? What does humanity do with this massive amount of information and or the access to so much information at any given time?
On some level I think the next age will be the Artificial Intelligence Age, an age where either for good or bad things become even simpler and or automated. An age where massive thinking computers solve our problems as they arise and in some cases even before they have time materialize. This is somewhat scary as you can imagine. However I am not 100% sold that this will be the next age of mankind. Predicting things is always hard as the future is certainly a toss-up.
If I had to guess I think the next age of mankind will be the Prediction Age. What I mean by that is, I think that with the accumulation of mass amounts of data will start to become more important once we are able to exponentially increase our computing power. I am hopeful and think that Quantum Computing will be a reality in the near future. If this is true, then we will be able to utilize data more efficiently. Once we arrive at this point I think then we will finally be able to use this data in ways we never dreamed. I believe that IF we are able to increase our computing power we can take this data and make predictions about our future, ACCURATLEY. Or at least, in theory this could be possible.
This data accumulated could help predict weather more accurately, stock market trends and or crashes or bubbles, and most importantly human decisions. This is both exciting and scary as well. Predicting the future is scary, but trying to do it and then using that prediction to make other decisions is, I would argue, scarier. Obviously I do not know what lies beyond the Information age, but I am simply asking what we will do with all this information. I think the logical next step is to begin to process, dissect, and analyze it all. Perhaps then we could accurately predict terrorist attacks or any number of natural and artificial disasters.
On some level I think this could be the ultimate Big Brother from the famous novel 1984 (which you should totally check out if you have not already). But on the other hand it could potentially make the world a safer and better place. What do you think, what do you think the next Age of Mankind will be?