The Evolution of Technology

I am going to share my perceived view on the evolution of technology. I have shared this outlook with friends and family and have gotten various levels of (dis)agreement. The timeline is simple: science fiction to research labs and government use to general media to early adopters and finally the mass market.

Science Fiction

Everything starts as a dream and in technology that dream is called science fiction. Motorola’s StarTac device is familiar to Star Trek’s communicator. Second Life resembles Neal Stephenson’s virtual world from Snow Crash and it is no mistake that Dan Saffer is constantly referring to the gestural interface from Minority Report that is becoming closer to reality each day. Everything starts somewhere and science fiction fits the bill for technology.

Research and Government

I tie research to government for a simple reason. Research occurs because of a dream or interest. Most research is government funded for military or scientific purposes. Government is more than willing to fund research but it must have a decent basis in order to start. Research and government use fall under the chicken and egg dilemma. Whether it be cost, government and military use, or something else entirely though governments play a large part in research. It is at this stage of a products life that dreamers dream and skeptics skepticise… to make up new words as we go along. This is where Xerox Parc played with modular screens, microwave machines and Velcro made their debut, and space pens were born.

General Media

Once made the question is always “so what can we do with this?” The media usually steps in to answer this question, and not always with the most tasteful solution. First to clarify, by media I do no mean sitcoms and movies… that is the science fiction realm. Instead I am referring to news, reality television, and other publicized entertainment that has a large bankroll and the desire for the extravagant. The most recent and possibly irritating examples of this came from the 2008 Presidential election. The full wall touch screens and haptic displays were in a league of their own topped only by the Star Trek holograms on election night. Media takes it upon themselves, with little or no practical purpose, to exploit the possibilities of new technology.

Early Adopters

A more obvious link in the chain. The nerds, geeks, and technofreaks who save their allowance, sell their Kid Robot collection, and get tattoos to get the first launch or beta version of a product. Though not the topic of this article, is it these users who are most valuable in debugging early products and offering the most innovative insight.

General Public

Once early adopters step in, it is not long until the mass market picks up a product… that is if it doesn’t fail customer adoption. Look at Gmail, the iPhone, or simple saturation of RFID keys in our day to day lives. Before things of science fiction, now a part of our daily lives.

Conclusion

To wrap things up, this outlines the view of how a product moves from idea to mass market. Feel free to disagree with me and leave comments, as this is a notion I would like to further develop. Also, if anyone has my tin can delorian time machine, I want it.

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