"The Future is Now"

posted Jun 08, 2007

It's amazing just how pervasive the web has become, and how rapidly it happened -- and how much we all take it for granted.... My dinner tonight was a delivered pizza. I ordered it using a web site. The chain has a central system, which I used to specify the crust and toppings I wanted. Once I finished the order and put it into the system, they flashed a message to the local franchisee, and a delivery guy showed up here 20 minutes later.

Sometimes we don't even have to wait for delivery. I've purchased software recently and literally downloaded it within seconds of purchase confirmation....

All of this is ridiculously convenient, and I've gotten spoiled by it. We live in an age of miracles, and we're all completely blasé about it. - Steven Den Beste (now with ∞% more permalinks!)

We need an annual "OMGWTF tech! teh awesome!" holiday. Although the way things are going, it'll have to become a monthly event....

For several years now, I've taken to referring to our computers as "supercomputers", because this laptop that I'm typing on would be considered a supercomputer by the standards in place most of my life. Only for the most specialized and hardware-parallelizable problems could a single machine be built in 1990 that could beat this thing. Which is a year old. And this cost me ~$1250... the 1990 equivalent would be in the millions of dollars. And today's equivalent is probably merely around $800, and even then your new $800 will have a better processor and possibly more RAM at that price.

I use this in the context of pointing out how wrong it is for our supercomputers to be as slow as they sometimes are, thanks to the well-known ability for software to expand to consume 110% of the new resources the march of technology brings. But here my is point that what cost umpteen millions in 1990 is now a consumer toy.

I mean, look at this! 8 gigabytes. That's 64 billion independently addressable bits of information. On what is basically a toy. On real hardware, we push the trillions, the quadrillions are well-explored territory, and we're seriously toying with the quintillions.

It's not just tech, either. Unless I am very much mistaken, quality food is much more available than in 1985. I was young then, so maybe I'm wrong, but it still seems that way to me. People like to complain, but cars have gotten more reliable over the past few decades, even as they've gotten more complex. And medical technology has progressed by leaps and bounds since then.

If you're willing to go back further than I've been alive, the disparities are even larger. I've had cuts that require stitches which I nearly shrug off, but could have killed my ancestors with infections. In a moment, I'm going to stroll up to my magic cold box and grab twelve ounces' worth of chilled beverage, containing several ingredients that didn't even exist in the 19th century. (For better or worse...) What would my great-great-grandfathers have given for that?

This could clearly go on for a long time, and that's my real point. You could easily fill a lengthy book series with the blessings we are swimming in. I don't think it's right to be blasé about it. Of course, most of the time I am, 'cause I'm human. But I try to remember what I have every so often.

I think it can even help you be happier with what you have. "I may not have a Hummer, but at least I have a cold drink" only sounds stupid... it is actually a profound truth. Even when you don't have a lot of money in your bank, you are still extraordinarily wealthy today.

This year's OTTAday reading is The Great Pyramid of Giza vs. 7-11: Start at "So what can we do? We can stop, in little ways, taking so damned much for granted.", the third big section.

I wish some childlike wonderment unto you.


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