Post source: Applications in Biology for a New Generation

I think one of the most profound ideas is “For years inventions have extended man’s physical powers rather than the powers of the mind”. Wisdom is not negotiable. It should be a requirement for use of new technology. You can look at the atomic bomb – yes it put an end to World War II – but at a cost no one could have imagined. The radioactive fallout is understood today but was not considered by most people in 1945.

Technology can provide us unlimited access to worldwide knowledge and if applied correctly the applications are unlimited.  In high school I use micro fish and index medicus (scientific indexing series of books). By my senior year in my undergraduate studies I could pay ten dollars a minute to do a computer search in Medline (index medicus on—line). We also flipped floppies to load word processing programs and spell check. By my masters program WordPerfect dominated the educational world and laser printers could do proportional spaced fonts. By the time I was working on my PhD searching on-line was common, transmission of protein structure and DNA structure was common place. We now used email. Near the end of my graduate school years we could type in a line of amino acids and the computer could fold them into the shape of an actual protein. And technology has continued to change exponentially.

‘Star Trek’ proposed nano technology over a decade ago – based in physic hypotheses. In fact much of what was seen in the different ‘Star Trek’ show was based in physics hypotheses. I just read about nanobots that can crawl around inside our bodies moving proteins – we would have insisted thirty years ago that this would only be seen in science fiction like the ‘Fantastic Voyage’. There have been some individuals through out history that could see where we would be someday: Louis Pasteur (said their were viruses – it took him ten years to convince anyone in the scientific community), Einstein (were E+MC2 was not understood to the point that this him most important contribution did not get him the Nobel Prize), Jules Verne (who wrote about atomic submarines and spaceships going to the moon), Tom Clancy (picked up by the US Military 3 days after the publication of ‘Hunt For Red October’), just to name a few.

Another point the author brought out was “…effort to bridge between disciplines is correspondingly superficial”.  This is so true technology has lead to more specialization and less cross discipline study. Neurologists refer you to nephrologists who refer you to cardiologist. The technology has yet to provide us a way to absorb and apply the massive amounts of accumulating information. Advancements in technology moves science forward but not society and/or communication. We have separate bodies of information that is not inter-connected because we do not have enough time in the day to read all that applies to what we are working on. But technology would have been beneficial for Mendel and Darwin. They would have been able to communicate with each other and their findings would have been applied half a century sooner.

Almost all of technology today is driven by the economy (and we could say that this had been true for a very long time). I believe that Socrates, Aristotle, Michelangelo, or Pasteur cared about economic gain but instead the more pure gain of knowledge. But in 2010 in the United States technology doesn’t even have to work correctly if there is strong economic market. The new iPhone had serious problem as did Windows Vista, but the people wanted it now and they were released with tremendous increase of revenue. I know several people who say they love their iPhone and had switched to AT&T so that they could purchase an iPhone. They also complain that their reception is not good. Not as good as it had been with Verizon. So they have an iPhone that they love even if it doesn’t give them the reception they need. What motivates us to purchase new technology that does not improve our functional quality of life? Is this technology a superficial status symbol? “I have the iPhone.” “I have Windows 7.” Look at ink jet printers; it is cheaper to buy a new printer than replacing the cartridges in many cases. As consumers we have allowed this to happen. Supply and demand applies and I believe a lot of it simply boils down to I have, I have, I have…

I hope I don’t sound like a pessimist or someone opposed to technology because that is not the case. I have been fortunate to be able to use some of the best scientific equipment and technology over the years. I have tried to stay current with the computer age. And today I am trying to decide if I am ready to join the Android age. But for me it has to be functional or I do not want it. I rely on technology to work and do what it is designed to do. I am a very “Type A” personality and I am not tolerant of technological failure. For instance, I don’t just buy my computer at the cheapest location. I pay for quality not quantity.