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Technological Stasis

It seems as if every six months there is a newer, better device in which we can utilize in order to talk to one another, find information about a certain topic, or play a more addicting game that was purchased for a few to no dollars on the App Store. I would consider myself a hypocrite to say that I don’t enjoy these menial additions of my interconnected life, but I come to a point where I question my reliance on devices that award me with whatever the internet has to offer (which realistically is easier to discover what it doesn’t have to offer than to locate all that is available across the worldwide web).

Personal electronics have advanced to a stage of societal control where many of my acquaintances only worry about the next stage of plastics and lithium-ion they will be able to hold in the palm of their hands once they’ve saved up enough money to replace their out-of-date device they bought a year ago. Our modern society must necessarily be advancing in other areas of technology (medicine, transportation, space exploration, etc…), but for a person who considers himself up-to-date with the news, I rarely hear any updates on significant advancements in extending life, non-fossil fuel vehicles that will actually be integrated into mass production and mass consumerism, or how we as humans are going to personally investigate the ego-shrinking vastness that surrounds the decrepitly small blue marble we call Earth. So am I oblivious to technological advancements that are more significant than those that sit in our hands or pockets to distract us from the surrounding world, or are many of us staring at about a 3 in. by 2 in. screen during dinner while we wait for a disaster to forcefully wake our individual-focused world from the technological stasis created by the personal electronics of the past two decades? Personally, I hope it’s the former rather than the latter.

How long has it been since a brilliant group of scientists has advanced the course of medicine? Interestingly enough not long. I found an article on the website Medical News Today which stated that almost a year ago, scientists in Japan grew tissue of a human liver from stem cells. There have also been human lungs and faces reconstructed with the use of the believed-to-be controversial stem cells, but recently, the University of California and the University of Surrey in England have worked together to grow stem cells from “carbon nanotubes” as a structure. They did not receive these cells from other human cells or the controversial fetus. A synthetic structure was found effective to grow these variable cells in a laboratory and prove that I am oblivious to at least the advancements made in biomedical technology.
As for the mass production of non-fossil fuel vehicles, we obviously have the Prius and other similar hybrid models and electric cars that can be charged at electric fueling stations along the road, but by simply watching any roadway in America, one can empirically see that the amount of cars running on fossil fuel still outweigh the hybrid or electric vehicles. That can be explained by the convenience of the gas station being far more in abundance than the electric fueling station, but even if there were as many electric stations as gas stations, would people want to change? I’m not sure. Maybe instead of putting all the money into creating the most efficient car, the marketing team can arrive and attempt to change the “snooty” stigma of the environmentally efficient car. Ideals must advance alongside technology or else scientific progress won’t be utilized.

We need progress more than ever at this point because of the rising tides and population. It may not be during my lifetime, but there will come a time when humans can no longer live on Earth. Eventually, if humanity is going to survive, we will need to live on either a foreign world or a man-made installation. You have probably heard that NASA no longer sends up manned flights anymore. Instead, U.S. astronauts hitch a ride with the Russians to the International Space Station. That’s fine with me, but what happens when we need to get much farther than orbiting the Earth or landing on the Moon? How do we get outside our solar system and travel to a habitable zone without spending thousands of years in transit? According to a Discovery News article on nbcnews.com from 2012, there is a research group focused on finding the most efficient ways to travel outside our solar system.

Project Bifrost is working with Icarus Interstellar Inc. to achieve efficient interstellar flight by the year 2100. NASA might not be working with them now, but the future holds many possibilities. The future of space flight might be completely funded by curious private corporations because if NASA isn’t going to do it, someone else will, and if that hypothetical person does leave our atmosphere to explore, I assume I’ll hear about that advance on my smart phone.

Doing a very small amount of research for the article has proven to me that I am ignorant of many of the technological advancements happening on Earth, and my lack of information can’t be blamed on personal electronics because I used them to find the information that proved me wrong. The information is literally at my fingertips. I simply need to stop playing Candy Crush and exploit the readily available technology for more “altruistic” purposes: gaining knowledge.

By Martin O’Connor

6 comments

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