Monday, September 15, 2014

Approach as One: Technological Resonance and its Natural Progression to Singularity

     The fast paced outing of various technological giants will make your head spin. Here we have a new OS version, there we have a new screen configuration, a new device, new functions. All in Gatling gun speeds. 

     With the quantity of new releases, one might wonder about the quality of the same. Apple's newest offering in particular, garnered a lot of noise from the tech republic. Many say Apple is just presenting things that have been done many years ago by other companies.

     One might think that Apple has lost its sense of innovation and creativity that it has been brandishing ever since the companies creation. That the tables have actually turned 180 degrees. What used to be an icon of originality is now taking cues from the companies it once sued for stealing its product ideas. 

Recycling now a thing?

     If we present the facts alone, it really seems like there is no real new idea presented by the iPhone giant this time. The idea of the Apple Watch has been existing way before. Large screen phones are definitely around for a longer time. Same with health monitoring apps and NFC payments.

     To be fair with Apple, they have always been good at marketing their products and making sure the users maximize their capabilities. Like it or not, these products will still sell to the public who loves easily understandable UX and cool and elegant designs on their gadgets. But that is beside the point.

     The question is, has Apple really lost its magic? Has it lost its ability to create innovative and groundbreaking products that captures the worlds' imagination in a beat? Or more generally, are IT companies now just relying on obtaining the next product idea from the best thing the other company is offering in the market?

     Is the lack of innovation and creativity becoming widespread on the corporate level nowadays?

A Burst of Resonance?

     Let's take a step back. If you look at Apple's capability, it would seem that these latest technological offerings are really a breakthrough in terms of their products. Could it be that it just took them longer to achieve this level, maybe not because of lack of innovation but due to some limiting factor introduced by some "technological deity" somewhere? And could it be that this "technological deity" is simply rationing or guiding the advent of new technology to achieve a certain end goal?

     No need to nail me into the cross for that statement though. Because there is no such "deity". There is no need to inject a supernatural entity into the development of a purely logical endeavor.

     However, there is indeed some end to all of this innovation. Futurists call it the "Technological Singularity". Some define it as a hypothesis that states "that accelerating progress in technologies will cause a runaway effect wherein artificial intelligence will exceed human intellectual capacity and control, thus radically changing or even ending civilization in an event called the singularity. (Wikipedia)"

     My conjecture though is that to reach this point, there is another milestone that should be achieved first. Call it "Technological Resonance". I'd like to think of it not as a specific point but more of a period or range. Technological Resonance in its broadest term is a period in the future wherein all technological innovations from every inventor everywhere no matter how independent they work from each other, would result to very, very similar end products at the same time. It is the period as if technological innovation is being driven independently of every other factor like market share, corporate rivalry or technological espionage.

     It is possible that what we are witnessing is just the beginnings of the Resonance. Like how calculus was developed by two independent thinkers coincidentally at the same time period. (Actually, who knows if there others who developed it at the same time.)

What drives it?

     The scientific explanation of resonance would involve natural frequencies and the fact that just a small driving frequency would result to higher amplitude of the oscillation.

     In the case of Technological Resonance, what I have are just theories on what could drive this resonance. First possible driving frequency is the market. Initially, the law of supply and demand could start the resonance, what the market buys, the big companies manufacture the supply and advertise the products which will increase the demand which will start the cycle again. I'm not quite warmed up on this theory though as we've seen some aggressive marketing on various technological inventions which did not take flight like the Google Glass or the Windows mobile OS.

     I'd like to think that this driving force is more innate to human nature and to the real definition of technology itself. The most basic definition of technology is the development of tools to be used by humans. Technology is the way to improve what humans can do.
It would be more feasible to have the evolution of technology to follow the same path as that of human development, only difference is in the pacing. What human can do, they can do better and faster with technology. We can build houses faster, communicate more effectively, travel more efficiently live better with technology.

     Hence, the evolution of technology will be guided by how humans behave in our society. Take the most basic human necessity or societal needs and technology will naturally wrap itself around those activities to make them more efficient.

     Taking cue from Maslow's hierarchy of needs, new technology will be developed to cater to humanities' physiological, safety, belonging, esteem and self-actualization needs. Can we find a pattern? (Pop quiz: Which technology caters to our need to Belong? How about Safety?)
Technological resonance now becomes defined as the period in time wherein all technological innovations are all independently oriented towards providing for the most fundamental human needs. As such, in that period, technology would not be an alternative to living anymore. Technology would be another characteristic of life akin to Adaptation, Procreation and Growth.

     (As an aside, if you need to change your basic life processes to adapt to a new technology, then it is not bound to last long. Technology should adapt and improve life, not the other way around.)

Approaching Singularity, as One 

     If you think about it, Technological Resonance is a natural step towards singularity. Artificial intelligence will only achieve autonomy if it has full grasp of all human activity and processes. And the best way for that to happen is if humans become fully dependent on technology. During Resonance, all our Technological breakthroughs are on improving or even replacing human needs. That kind of symbiosis is the best way one learns from the other which is a very convenient shortcut to a learning AI. But more importantly it gives Technology some level of control to the human user.

     Some futurists believe the Singularity will come in a hundred years time. And that if it does come, it will happen rapidly without warning. The "ending the civilization" part seems too extreme and grim but shouldn't be ignored.

     Going back, Apple's supposedly 2 year backdated "innovation" would not seem like outdated at all. It might just be a spurt of the aforementioned Technological Resonance.

In the end...

     It's good that there are a lot of companies ejecting a lot of products into the market for human consumption. But the thing is, which companies develop which product does not really matter. In the end, every manufacturer works independently towards a common goal whether they are aware of it or not. That goal is to provide, improve or even replace the most fundamental human needs. What happens after that phase might be good or bad. But the good thing is we'll be approaching it as one.

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