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The Fourth Age

Byron Reese

More books on Technology

English a lang of neologisms. Until recently, a new word coined every hour, but pace slowing,possibly because of automatic spell checkers which are very reluctant to put upwith that sort of horseplay.

Trading, tech advances and the division of labour are the only 3 'free lunches' in ec theory - ie, ways that the overall wealth can be increased without anyone having to work harder.

The Third Age began about 5000 years ago, with the invention of writing and written records, meaning knowledge could be recorded and disseminated - ideas could live outside one person's mind. During the Third Age, progress evolutionary.Printing changed the world, but basically it was a cheaper and more efficient way to do something we already could.

The ancients made many tech breakthroughs, but lacked mechanism to disseminate and thus improve. Greek Antikythera mechanism, a which was basically a computer to calc astronomical positions and thus predict eclipses. In modern world, such a revolutionary device would have been widely publicized, and engineers around the world would try to outdo each other to improve it.

That's how tech advances, by making incremental improvements on the work of others.

Moore's law well known - numberof transistors in an integrated circuit doubling every two years, and cost of that halving. But Ray Kurzwell found this applied right back to 1890, when simple electromech devices used to help with the US census. The tech of computers went from mech relays to vacuum tubes to transistors to integrated circuits, and all along the way, Moore's law never stopped.

Applies to almost all forms of tech - not necessarily doubling every two years, but always a regular numberof n years. Cameras, hard drives, TVs and monitors.

Rem the story of the chessboard, and the one grain of rice on first square, 2 on second, then 4 on third etc. With computers, we are on about the 60th square. Wait 2 years and you'll get twice the comp power you'd get today for same price. In 25 years we'll have something as far ahead of an iPad, as the iPad is ahead of a clay tablet.

If you wanted 125,000 transistors it would cost the equivalent of a million dollars. In 2010 the same number of transistors cost the same as a single grain of rice.

Each new age saw technology outsourcing functions of our life. Fire improved digestion, writing augmented our memeories, the wheel spare our backs, and now computers solve virtually all the problems we face.

Greeks thought plants have one soul, bc they are clearly alive, and reproduce and die. Animals have two souls, one the same as plants, but another bc they are purposeful. Humans have a third soul bc they reason.

Thought expt - how much would I have to pay you to give up the Internet forever? A million dollars? Yet you get the Internet for $49.95 a month from your local ISP. That's a very cheap substantial improvement in yr sol.

Tech requires investment; investment requires wealth. So inevitably, the rich benefit directly from tech improvements, while the poor just benefit indirectly.

Stephen hawking quote: "Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine generated wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine owners successfully lobby against wealth distribution."

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