We Are Unbelievably High-Tech

You know, when you watch science fiction movies or read such books, you would think to yourself, yeah, these are great inventions. Who knows, we might have them in the future, twenty or thirty years from now. Always twenty and thirty years. Always an arbitrarily distant future. But really, who would have thought that in our modern times, we’re already attaining feats of technology not even dreamed about in some fictional material.

Take a look at this.

http://singularityhub.com/2013/01/26/better-than-the-borg-the-neurotech-era/

Doesn’t sound convincing enough? Try this.

http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/onepercent/2013/01/light-emitting-fingernail-disp.html

The idea that fingernails can reflect your screen underneath is unthinkable and somehow an even wackier idea than the one of projecting thoughts onto machines. Projecting thoughts has been covered in sci-fi material, I’m sure, but fingernails? I believe not so much.

Sometimes I marvel at the ingenuity of the computer scientists to create such things, but sometimes I also simply respect the fellow who had the creativity to think it up in the first place. Thinking of how to make something from technology that you have available is one thing, but it requires stepping out of invisible boundaries to let your mind loose and fantasise wildly. To just sit back in a chair and think, “what do I want to do?”

And the after the creativity comes the invaluable team of geniuses who turn your dream into reality. It’s like a game I played back in primary school, where we form groups of 3 people. 1 person acts as the visionary, 1 is the architect and the other is the builder. The visionary was supposed to look at an abstract picture, and then pass on this information to the architect. The architect will then direct to the builder what he is supposed to draw, in order to try to replicate what the visionary saw. It’s like charades in a way, and that’s also the concept behind such technology expertise. A visionary passes on as much of his abstract dream as he can to his architects, who work out from the abstraction how to convert it to reality, and then instruct their builders to do the actual making. Sure, the end result may not be anything like what the visionary originally intended, but the process is complete. Something fantastic has still been built as a result of the visionary’s initiative.

Some people like to draw a divide between the sciences and the arts. Science deals with the concrete, they say. Concrete, observable, tangible phenomena. The arts are abstract. They study thought, human behaviour, results of human actions, all those mumbo jumbo one doesn’t directly see. But where does computing fit into this spectrum then? I would say that computer programming is even more abstract than the arts. Computers never existed in nature. Everything, from the coding to the display you see, were created by humans. Look at the neurotechnology article. The brain is there, it has always been there, as an object of study. But to make the machines that probe the brain and interpret brain scans is all up to a programmer’s imagination. The manipulation of bits and bytes, 0’s and 1’s, that can somehow capture brain activity requires the highest level of abstraction I can think of. Computing really is seeing the world differently, and reconciling the natural world with the virtual world. And to study a virtual world created by the desires of humans is, I would say, very much a social science.

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