Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Waiting for Technology

Today I was reading an article titled Video Phones Are Coming. And This Time It's for Real - BusinessWeek. The article gave a brief history of the video phone from Dick Tracy's 2-way wrist TV to the Apple prototype recently left in a bar (that could possibly include a video phone). It's anticipated that Apple or Skype or some other company will have something by the end of this year.

When I was a kid my parents took me to Chicago one summer. We saw all the sights and I remember visiting The Museum of Science and Industry. One of the displays that caught my attention was a telephone connected to a television screen. If I remember right, the people who produced the display predicted the technology would be available in ten years or so.

Well, I waited and waited and that technology never happened. That vacation to Chicago took place at least 50 years ago and I still don't have my video phone. I'm not even sure I want one anymore.

But the point here is how uneven technological progress has been. With most technology, I've given up trying to keep up. We put a man on the moon 41 years ago, but still haven't found cures for most diseases. We have to update phones, computers, TVs, cameras, and software every two years or so and yet we still don't have video phones. I have a record player, 8-tracks, cassettes, and CDs that I never use because all my music is now downloaded to my computer. I have all this technology, but I still don't understand how a radio works.

All in all, it's difficult to predict which technology will be successful. At one time the future of video was expected to be the video disc, which looked like an LP record. As it turned out, VHS tapes won out.

And with all the technology we have, we can't figure out how to contain the oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico.

And this is why education is so important. Technology and problem solving go hand in hand. A broad education is needed to do the kind of problem solving that new technologies require. An education that is focused in just one area won't do. To solve the oil spill takes people educated in geology, chemistry, mechanical engineering, oceanography, the environment, and more. To build a video phone, we've had to create powerful microprocessors, perfect screen technology, and set up worldwide cellular networks. It takes people who are educated in science, math, technology, and engineering.

We can barely imagine what technologies, problems, and jobs will face us in the future. But I do know a good, well-rounded, broad education will be the key to having a job, solving problems, creating new technologies, and imagining what the next great technology will be or having the solution to the next great problem.

No comments:

Post a Comment