How technology, digital apps and robots creates global change

Text and drawings by Frits Ahlefeldt,

Technology is a driver we have relied on since we started playing with fire for around 500.000 years ago. Using tools and techniques to reach further and do more ever since. Today Technology is the driver that we attach most of our hopes and focus to.

A new leap in our use of technology started only a few years ago, when the digital revolution and the internet jumped to life and creating a whole new digital reality at the speed of light-cables, connecting the whole planet in ways nobody thought possible just a few years earlier.  Today we are in the middle of this bit-based tsunami, where our new technology is surpassing us in many ways

Drawing of a robot making victory sign
Technology, apps and digital tools are changing our reality very fast

Great milestones in our use of technology

Fire use 700.000 – 100.000 BC. 

It took us almost 500.000 years to learn to light a fire, instead of running from it. And around 100.000 years ago we were getting  good at using fire, both to prepare food and to keep us warm.

Fire was one of our very first technologies.  and we happily spent the next 75.000 years or so sitting around it experimenting with chipping small flakes of stones to make better hunting tools and tell stories, while the mammoths, the woolly rhino and a lot of other species, ended their journey, drawn up with chair coal on the rock-walls along our new trails, as we started to use codes and images to represent things we could not touch or see.

Metal use 5000 BC. 

Around 5000 years ago we found a new use for fire, melting metals to make new tools and more advanced artifacts. First we melted copper and gold, but soon we started to combine several metals into alloys that was even better. And around 1800 BC. we had figured out how to make tough and sharp steel alloys.

The wheel – 4000 BC.

The invention of the wheel came around 4000 BC together with a lot of other inventions, that all helped build a bridge to new and more settled ways of living. Soon we stopped moving around as nomads, becoming farmers instead. A bit of a paradox, it is almost like it was our invention of the wheel, a thing great for moving around,  that stopped us doing exactly that.

Maybe it was simply because wheels turned out to be much better for moving goods around, and for bringing and selling stuff on the markets. Wheels are great for handling more than we can carry.

Soon everybody were getting more and more stuff, better houses and more kids. Farming had been going on a few thousand years before this, and the first known farming of wheat, barley and rice dates back to around 10.000 BC.

But around 4000 BC. everyone seemed to get on the wagon and start building hierarchies,  defense walls and clear the landscapes for farming

The steam engine 1700

The next huge leap happened around 1700, after many years where mechanical clocks, book printers and huge ocean-going wood sailing ships, among other new inventions had made human civilization ready for yet another ground breaking invention – the self-powered machine.

In 1712 the first mines were equipped with pumping steam engines and in 1781 the inventor James Watt combined the steam-engine with the wheel, and from then on not only humans, but also our machines started to move around the planet.

Soon cars, locomotives, ocean-liners and other machines gained steam, producing and moving stuff around the globe for us. while we humans – now called “consumers” got more and more hungry for new resources, places and the latest, most trendy, refined, mass-produced, globally distributed products.

The computer 1950

The next big leap was making our machines more intelligent and able to handle more and more of our reality for us. The first really promising computers were built in the late 1940’ties. The first computers filled up whole buildings and needed gigantic amounts of energy to make them do the most simple calculations.

Our new thinking machines made journeys into new unknown terrain possible, things like landing a primitive self-thinking machine on the moon, million of miles away, where no humans had ever been, was a fierce race.

The first computer crashed into the Moon on September 13, 1959, with a number of other ones soon following.  A small step for mankind, but a huge one for machines. Our machines proudly got to the moon almost ten years before the American Astronaut Neil Armstrong finally on 20 July, 1969 could follow in their footsteps.

Technology is taking the next huge step at the moment.

Becoming better than humans, artificial intelligence and self-driving cars

In the last 500.000 years our technology has gone from being a spark in the night to self-driving, autonomous and intelligent creatures, taking over more and more of our lives, helping us in so many ways we would have no clue what to do without their ever-ready help.

Today we are in a place where we happily hand over more and more areas and control to the huge digital systems, robots and machines that nurture, connect and support our daily life, from telling us how to get from A to B, to monitoring our blood pressure, producing our food, shelters, clothing and cars, entertaining us in our spare times and connecting us through social media and repairing us when we break down.

When technology invents technology

Some claim robots already know how to build new machines and technology better and faster than we do, and anyone opening a tech or design magazine today can read about how the robots are experimenting 3D printing out their own siblings,  and the next generations of digital based lifeforms, to follow under the mantra of smaller, faster, more connected and smarter.

Robots and us

Some fear the robots might one day erase us from the surface of the planet… Others think we are much more likely to merge with them, slowly drawing ourselves up on the cave-walls along with the mammoths, wholly Rhinos, and integrating what-ever they can of us, into the future of more advanced lifeforms.

It has all happened before, mammals took all they could use from the dinosaurs, and for a long time we believed humans wiped out the Neanderthals cavemen, in prehistoric time. But genetic evidence show it is more like we merged with them. We humans have genetic traces of Neanderthals in our DNA.

Maybe the machines will do the same with us, being mostly build of bits and steel, but with traces of us in them, as they move on without the limitations we have, being landlocked and adapted to a tiny planet in an endless universe.

The next step for technology

Our technology got to the moon ten years before us and now it scan the night sky for any possible place where it might go next.

Back here on Earth we humans are getting more and more successful implementing technology into the human body, first as pacemakers and hearing aids, but at the moment new kinds of body and brain enhancing technology is developed all over the world.

Technologies that will soon make it possible for us to move to a whole new level, where we can create new kinds of experiences, realities, dreams and visions.

No wonder technology is considered one of our most important global drivers of change today.

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