Submitted by basafish t3_zvjgc7 in Futurology

We have seen technology going from feeding few people to feeding 8 billion people, from talking face-to-face to talking with people in another hemisphere, from not knowing what the reason of cancer is to curing some cancer, but recently the impact of new technology has become less noticeable than before. I mean all the new smartphones are basically minor improvements over their past versions these years.

Are we about to hit the limit when new technology won't have a strong impact on the society anymore?



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TheSecretAgenda t1_j1pgq53 wrote

The laws of physics are the only upper limit. Also, the amount of energy required may mean that things that are theoretically possible could not be done because of the energy requirements.


SublimeCosmos t1_j1zq86z wrote

Currently only a billionth of the sun’s energy actually reaches earth. The rest is radiated out in space to no benefit for humanity. If we figured out a way to capture more of it and move it to where we need it, that would unlock tremendous energy for humanity.


Endl4ss_ t1_j1s7l2f wrote

I agree but it’s also the smarts of the person making it


Duckpoke t1_j1r0wr6 wrote

If we can harness E=mc2 properly I have a hard time believing even energy would be an issue.

Changing this to

"If we can harness nuclear fusion properly I have a hard time believing even energy would be an issue." because so many people have an issue w/ my short hand


IsThereAnythingLeft- t1_j1r3nzt wrote

You sound like you have no idea what you are talking about. ‘Harnessing E=mc2’ isn’t a term lol


urtley t1_j1r5yqk wrote

Isn't he saying that turning matter into energy would give us plenty to work with?


IsThereAnythingLeft- t1_j1r7wdl wrote

So using nuclear energy. That is a term


urtley t1_j1rdgrx wrote

From web search: The mass converted to energy in fission is about 0.1%;

Imagine if we got that number way higher like the OP was suggesting.


Crime_Dawg t1_j1rhtmx wrote

You can’t make it go higher, it’s a fundamental aspect of the difference in starting mass of your initial atom and the final mass it splits into.


Gavinlw11 t1_j1rj5n0 wrote

To expand, the 'mass' lost in nuclear reaction is not actually 'matter' (meaning particles) it is just energy stuck in the bonds between particles, not unlike chemical bonds. Of course we observe it as 'mass' because e=mc^2, and there is enough bonding energy to effect the mass we observe, but e=mc^2 does not mean we can obliterate particles into pure energy. The only way to do that is with anti-matter, which we can only make by expending a vast amount of energy (more than we would get back out)


aspiringnobody t1_j1rzzkb wrote

You actually can liberate 100% of the energy “stored” in matter by annihilating it with antimatter.

Not likely in the near future but certainly conceivable in the distant future.


Crime_Dawg t1_j1scvea wrote

Yeah but that has nothing to do with fission / fusion.


amitym t1_j1trhyr wrote

Strictly speaking it is a form of fusion...


IsThereAnythingLeft- t1_j1rvmx9 wrote

Op suggested nothing of the sort, they hadn’t a clue what they were talking about


whitewail602 t1_j1rskkd wrote

I knew exactly what they were talking about.


IsThereAnythingLeft- t1_j1rvvxi wrote

Doesn’t make what op said a correct statement


whitewail602 t1_j1rxj1x wrote

Just because they're not up on the terminology doesn't mean they can't participate in the conversation. I hear stuff like this from actual scientists all the time and no one thinks twice about it.


Duckpoke t1_j1r84t2 wrote

You can always pick out who the real imposters are because they’ll be pedantic and go after someone’s grammar to try to disprove their entire point. You are that person


shill779 t1_j1rqzb0 wrote

Ahhh yes grammar. That is the real enemy standing in our way of free energy. The grammar nazis clamor around as if beacons of death devouring our opportunities and crushing our points.


IsThereAnythingLeft- t1_j1rvfg2 wrote

Lol if you think that was picking at grammar. It is fundamentally not a term in that it has not meaning. Harnessing an equation isn’t a thing. So you are the one who has no right to comment here


Duckpoke t1_j1s0l45 wrote

Harnessing energy from converted mass? How hard is that to understand? Sorry if you didn't like my lingo for it.


IsThereAnythingLeft- t1_j1uy74r wrote

That’s not what he said tho. He just stated an equation, that equation works both ways too


[deleted] t1_j1s06ys wrote

Fine, I’ll bite. What does properly harnessing mass-energy equivalence mean in your mind?


Duckpoke t1_j1s0duu wrote

harnessing energy by converting to it from mass? idk how hard that is it understand...


[deleted] t1_j1s1501 wrote

Where do you think energy already comes from, my dude? What are you even trying to say lmao


goelrishabh09 t1_j1vhzmj wrote

Haha, i got you. Have same thinking that nuclear energy is very much needed now on commercial scale. It will start soon enough. You need some ruthless govt decisions for it but it will happen.


MayorOfSmurftown t1_j1pg016 wrote

>Are we about to hit the limit when new technology won't have a strong impact on the society anymore?

How can you say that with all the innovations in AI and automation happening right now? We are just getting started.


snwbrdj t1_j1rth6w wrote

I agree, our only real limiting factor is how humans fight all the time. If we’d only learn that no of this matters if we don’t learn how to work together


Lost_Jeweler t1_j1wpirw wrote

I think 'healthy competition' drives innovation. People, companies, governments get complacent and corrupt without external competition.

The problem is when competition turns to keeping the other guy down more than keeping yourself getting better.


basafish OP t1_j1ph1f6 wrote

Some of the recent examples of AI look so impressive that people forget they are just toys and ideas, not actually real-world implementation.

This article shows how stalled AI/ML actually is outside of the fields of auto driving and news feed sorting.


Surur t1_j1pmzfp wrote

That's probably because as soon as it becomes practical its suddenly no longer AI. Look at the very wide and successful implementation of things like voice recognition, photo and video manipulation filters, machine translation and more.

When image generation ends up in Adobe it will be immediately forgotten as an AI landmark and just be used by professionals to improve their productivity.


StreetBookRandoNumbr t1_j1tnsxn wrote

Those are machine learning algorithms, not true AI

Edit: They are computers that can do the math faster than humans ever could, but just math.


Surur t1_j1tupdi wrote

If you keep on saying that, there will soon be very little left that defines humans.

According to you its not our ability to calculate, and not our ability to recognize patterns, and not our ability to be creative.

What is left?


StreetBookRandoNumbr t1_j1tv1ur wrote

Not according to me. Do not put words in my mouth (text)

Ai does not mean being able to match human capabilities. Machine learning does exceed that. It means being able to make decisions and learn on its own. Currently, machine learning learns by us telling it what to learn, so not AI


Surur t1_j1tvdkz wrote

> It means being able to make decisions and learn on its own

That is a pretty low hurdle to cross. I think you need to set the bar a bit higher.


StreetBookRandoNumbr t1_j1tvx1l wrote

No I don’t. It’s called the Turing Test.


Surur t1_j1twub4 wrote

Most people think the Turning test is not a good enough test these days, as it's too easy for computers to pass just by faking it.

What differentially AI from humans at this point is that, while AI may be good at individual elements of intelligence, humans are the only ones where these are all integrated - the difference between narrow and general intelligence.

Humans are the only GI at the minute, and the goal of some AI research is Artificial General Intelligence. Some people think we are less than 10 years from that.


kallikalev t1_j1pkid7 wrote

And the fact that they’re just toys now means they’ll never be put into use? The newest big stuff like image generation is less than a year old, things take time. Just recently generative art was nothing but a pipe dream, then all the outputs were messes of scribbles that vaguely resembled the prompts, and now they’re mind-blowing. Give it a few more years of refinement and business interests, and you’re going to see image generators and chatbots commonplace.

As a first example of widespread deployment, popular graphic design tool Canva has added a text-to-image tab on its website directly in the editor, allowing people to create stock photos, logos, backgrounds, etc on the fly. And on the “toy” side of things, Midjourney launched about six months ago and already has millions of users paying $10-$30 every month for image generation. Most are using it as a toy but some are making album or book covers, character art for roleplaying games, sketches and inspiration for their own drawings, etc. Just because something is a toy doesn’t mean it won’t have any impact.


[deleted] t1_j1pm8xu wrote



Practical-Mix-4332 t1_j1qtxz1 wrote

Blockchain is an interesting technology but who knows if/when a mainstream use case will be discovered. Uses for AI are everywhere on the other hand.


Cascascap t1_j1prz6b wrote

Machine learning is very much in use nowadays. Companies use it for data analysis, for example Amazon has an anti fraud mechanism that recognizes fraudulent transactions using ML.

This is just of many examples.


Lord_Nivloc t1_j1rfbga wrote

Lmao, lot of toys out there for sure, but have you seen our social media algorithms? Have you seen AlphaFold and the Rosetta team’s adaptation of it?

Protein folding is very near and dear to my heart, molecular biology will change medicine and the world forever. And neural networks will speed up progress 20x


StreetBookRandoNumbr t1_j1to115 wrote

Exactly, algorithms, not AI. Just fancy math computers.


Lord_Nivloc t1_j1v35z1 wrote

Uh….yes? Neural networks and machine learning are just fancy algorithms, not AGI

But these fancy algorithms are better than us at many tasks.


NuncErgoFacite t1_j1ph655 wrote

Technology, historically speaking, is the result of necessity driving innovation, not innovation driving need. Capitalism creates an artificial or auto-necessity by using economic pressure on discovery/research and development. But if humanity were facing a global food shortage, real-necessity would kick in and we would find a way - or not and starve until the population shrinks far enough to be sustainable by whatever means survive. History has both versions of that exact example.

As for pure scientific discovery - I believe history and James Burke will back me up when I say that if humanity can see a thing/process that we need being done anywhere, even in the most inefficient and cost exorbitant fashion, then we have/will refine the process until it becomes common place.


alexunderwater1 t1_j1pj1vh wrote

Case in point, there’s been some incredible advances in healthcare related gene editing & vaccine development via pressures from Covid.


njc121 t1_j1qmvwi wrote

Of course this is all in the context of humans needing to do their own innovation. We may not need to do that in a few years given the exponential rate of AI's progress.


SuperDuperSkateCrew t1_j1quvjm wrote

AI is simply just another tool for us to use, we’d still need to make the discoveries and have the want to find out new innovations and AI will drastically accelerate the rate at which we can do it.

Example, AI isn’t going to find out what compounds are best for a next generation of car tire without humans first having a want or a need for them. It will always be reactive to human needs in my opinion.


njc121 t1_j1qwvb1 wrote

Kinda, but not really. We can feed the right prompts to AI, but it pulls up creative results on its own from there. At best, it's a collaborative effort, but most of the time we won't need to engage any further in the process.


SuperDuperSkateCrew t1_j1qyj1k wrote

Well like you said It pulls up the creative results after we’ve feed it the data we want it to pull from, which is reactive to our needs.. the data will get more complex due to us being able to feed it the results of other AI (which will likely be automated for most cases) but I don’t think an AI will organically find answers to obscure or specific questions without human input.


njc121 t1_j1qz3l4 wrote

I'm not sold on equating the expression of a desire with the process of coming up with a solution.


redditsucksbigly t1_j1r1oss wrote

I want to like your comment but it doesn't make sense.

>Capitalism creates an artificial or auto-necessity by using economic pressure on discovery/research and development.

Capitalism is a system for allocating capital and deciding what resources are dedicated to solving what problems. In communism the government decides. In capitalism return, or expected benefit, decides. Capitalism doesn't create the needs. Humans create the needs. Capitalism is a mechanism for deciding what needs have resources dedicated to them. With capitalism we've seen more needs resourced and more innovation over a longer period of time than any other system.

>But if humanity were facing a global food shortage, real-necessity would kick in and we would find a way - or not

So if we were facing a global food short we would innovate ... or not innovate. Groundbreaking


NuncErgoFacite t1_j1tmj6o wrote

I want to like your comment, but I really can't imagine using the word Capitolism without pendanticly rambling about communism.

Capitalism uses/allows supply and demand to create economic pressure upon innovation.

Electric cars were not affordable to manufacture until 15 years ago, despite having had the technical capability since the 1920's (though the energy storage debate would likely push that back to the 70's). It is only in our current economic situation that we find the financial incentive to form companies that build mass production facilities capable of supplying that product to the masses. Twenty years ago, that would not be possible on a purely financial basis. Now, loads of RnD are being pushed into energy storage and kinetic energy recapture. This impulse, in turn, is creating a whole new class of electronics based on batteries - from houses to cell phones.

But sure. None of that makes sense.


redditsucksbigly t1_j1ut7l6 wrote

Yeah sorry you clearly didn't understand the concept correctly so tried to explain it. In the words u/NuncErgoFacite, once real necessity kicks in, now you'll either understand it ... or you won't. Best of luck!


NuncErgoFacite t1_j1wawi1 wrote

I understand that you are determined to be "right" at the expense of someone else. I also understand that you are mis-applying Capitalism as economic theory to a tangential discussion of economic pressure on a industry. I just wonder who it was that hurt you so and hope that you up your fluoxetine dosage soon. Happy Holidays.


nmarshall23 t1_j1wtzy7 wrote

Capitalism cuts in-house pure research, and shifts that to the government.

It doesn't care that it also lobbied the government to cut taxes and thus defunded basic research.

All Capitalism cares about is the bosses fat bank account.

If you want more basic research you need a government that can fund it over several decades.


NuncErgoFacite t1_j1yfwa5 wrote

That is not Capitalism. That is what your country is doing with Capitalism. There are formats that serve all kinds.


Rcomian t1_j1pg59s wrote

mobile phones got quite boring just before smart phones came along and changed the landscape. we're still trying to work out how to deal with being able to talk to anyone on the planet and survive as a society. ai hasn't even woken up yet and it's changing the landscape of text and image generation.


Skinny-Fetus t1_j1plcxw wrote

Idk seems like your conclusion that technology has progressed a lot previously is based on a few centuries of history. While the examples of technology not progressing as much by comparison youve given are from like the last 10 years. So your examples show that tech has advanced more in the last few centuries than in the last 10 years or so.

Don't you see the problem there? Question is, has technology progressed any slower in the last 10 years than it did let's say in 1970-1980? I don't think so. I'd say it's the opposite.


NoxTheorem t1_j1taoyq wrote

This really illustrated how fast were going.

If you compare 1900 - 1922 and 2000 - 2022.

We are innovating an unimaginable speeds.


basafish OP t1_j1pm0hk wrote

The problem I was posing was not how fast tech progresses, it was how much impact it has on society. I mean, new technology doesn't save many lives but back then new technology in agriculture, medicine in 70-80s saved billions of lives.


Skinny-Fetus t1_j1pm64p wrote

Sure that might be true. Seems like just a symptom of success tho. At some point you start to run out of lives to save. For example, today more people die of obesity than starvation. So agricultural advancements just will not save as many lives as 50 years ago cuz there are not as many starving people that need saving.

If a society with horrible living conditions like most of the world in the 1900s gets tech, the period where most lives are saved will eventually pass as that tech succeeds in improving living conditions. If we were constantly saving millions or billions of lives with new tech, we have a problem. Where are all these extra people in peril coming from?


Surur t1_j1pn6sx wrote

> The problem I was posing was not how fast tech progresses, it was how much impact it has on society.

You really think things like Amazon deliveries (powered by amazing logistics not possible without computerization) did not have a profound impact on society?


goelrishabh09 t1_j1vjnig wrote

This is why i think while asking question we need to be to the point and not add our other assumptions. Assumptions can be added as comments and they can make threads explaining only that assumption. A few better writers can judge the main question and can respond to all points in detail and sidelining all assumptions or side questions. But merging questions and assumptions might confuse many experts and they end up skipping the discussion.


NoxTheorem t1_j1tbbzu wrote

You have to be young to think this... We're innovating at an incredible rate, in every industry across the board. Massive social changes, influenced by technology are happening every decade.


Buggy3D t1_j1pg96n wrote

Technologies will all reach a point of diminishing rates of improvement until new breakthroughs are discovered.

There could be a seemingly infinite number of breakthroughs, but we will likely reach a point sometime in the future where these breakthroughs happen less and less as we become more and more comfortable with existing technology, to a point where researching for new breakthroughs becomes unnecessary.


Nv1023 t1_j1tfj68 wrote

TVs have reached an incredible clarity point with 4K with some type of HDR and high refresh rate. I don’t see how much better they can get. We have reached seeing TV as clear as the human eye can see so what is next.

I know there is 8K etc but it’s well past the point of diminishing returns in my opinion. Or is there a bad effect for the human eye once resolution gets past what the eye can handle? Will 16K TVs in the future be a step back in a sense since it might be too sharp looking.


Tupcek t1_j1pvki1 wrote

it’s happening right now.
In the past, one genius was able to deliver several breakthroughs
now, if you don’t pour billions into something, there is almost no chance you achieve something big. Individual means nothing, thousands of people working in teams are needed to make any breakthrough possible.
And that is just the beginning. This was until now. Now it seems, that you not only need thousands of bright minds to get the breakthrough, but also decades of research. Like self driving cars that were announced 2005-2010 with huge investments from multiple companies, but it seems it will become reality in ~2030. Meanwhile, iPhone development started around 2002 and in 2010 smartphones were everywhere.
AI will also be the next big thing, but it’s also gonna be decades and billions before anything useful comes out of it.
We are only experiencing todays breakthroughs because billions are invested into the tech.
There will soon be a patent problems - if it took few years and few millions to develop new technology, nobody cares that you were copied two years later, as headstart was enough to get a good payoff. But if new technology takes decades of trial and error and billions of dollars, and after that you are copied in two years, investors will be hesitant to invest into long term projects


Surur t1_j1pwk4n wrote

As civilization grows richer, the amount of billions available to us also increases.


Tupcek t1_j1pwtj3 wrote

that’s true, but we already see rapidly increasing manpower and time requirements as well. It’s a question of economy how long can we keep up with ever increasing requirements, as there is not unlimited number of people on earth


Surur t1_j1pxg3v wrote

> as there is not unlimited number of people on earth

Which is where automation comes in.


Tupcek t1_j1pxjpg wrote

automation is here for decades and helping manufacturing tremendously, but so far research is taking more manpower to achieve breakthroughs even despite the automation


Surur t1_j1py2tx wrote

Automation in research is just getting started. Look at what Alphafold did with only a small staff.

I don't think it will be many years before the co-authors of many papers are AIs.


royalblue1982 t1_j1pkch2 wrote

One thing you always have to consider is that 'forever' is a long, long time. Our currently comprehension of reality and what is possible is limited by the capacity of our biological brains. If we are able to augment them with more advance processing /memory abilities then who is to say that we wouldn't suddenly shift what is possible. Like when the first primates evolved to comprehend the idea of tools.


Eur1sk0 t1_j1pn8ks wrote

Technological advances require energy. The upper limit is the max energy of the universe, provided we can harness it.


basafish OP t1_j1pob7t wrote

Isn't that practically limitless? I mean if we nuclear-fissioned Jupiter, we'd get all the energy we need for millions of years.


Eur1sk0 t1_j1pwylq wrote

Nope, nothing is "limitless" because a percentage of all energy conversions is converted to thermal energy which cannot be harnessed, it's lost as we say. That's why it's not possible to build a perpetual motion machine. There are thermodynamic restrictions.

Check Kardashev scale.


icecreamterror t1_j1pg6a6 wrote

There are limiting factors, but these are usually other forms of technology, in the case of Cell phones for example its battery technology, but we still see innovation year on year with records to other technology like storage, computing and screen technology.

So, the only limiting factors are physics and other technological developments.


DarkWaterResting t1_j1phbly wrote

The greatest threat to continued technological process is lack of materials.

See: Bronze Age Collapse

I hypothesize it could be energy reduction.


sarcasmagasm2 t1_j1q5f64 wrote

We can't predict if technological advancement has any upper limits because we can't predict what scientific research will discover.

And the rate of technological advancement is dependent on what some economist call "general technologies", that is technological innovations that open up a huge swath of less generalized technologies. The 20th century was marked by a much more rapid technological development that prior centuries because of the 19th century technological innovations of electric power and internal combustion engines which led to a huge boom in other technologies that utilized electricity or had internal combustion engines (or both). The last big general technology developed was computers which open up a lot of other tech possibilities ... but computer tech has never been as generalized as the other two.


The_Hungry_Grizzly t1_j1qamkx wrote

Everything that can be invented has been invented - some guy in 1000 a.d.

There is no upper limit. See the kardashev scale. Great videos on YouTube about it too


chriscov t1_j1pgkc6 wrote

I'd be more concerned about what the limits of our planet are biosphere are than the limits of technology... technology matters little if it breaks the former, and we're pretty much at that point already.


Surur t1_j1pnabs wrote

> technology matters little if it breaks the biosphere

Actually it matters the most then.


chriscov t1_j1po4yo wrote

Why is that? The scale of the problem is well beyond what any technology we're likely to develop can fix. Our limited history clearly demonstrates that technology is positively correlated with degradation of the biosphere, and there's next to no evidence that this trend won't continue.


Surur t1_j1ppdq7 wrote

> The scale of the problem is well beyond what any technology we're likely to develop can fix.

That's just your opinion, obviously. Do you want to expand on that?


chriscov t1_j1ptqt8 wrote

Some of the latest research suggests that we could be heading for 10C warming even if emissions stopped tomorrow. To get this under control we'd likely need to remove 1 trillion tonnes of carbon from atmosphere by 2050, 2040 if we want to be safe.


Surur t1_j1pttyk wrote

Or you know, do this sulphur thing. Or 10 other things we can do due to technology.

The main thing holding us back is other people, not technical practicality.


chriscov t1_j1pu0uc wrote

"This sulphur thing"?? I don't recall reading that academic paper.


Surur t1_j1puor8 wrote

So you are not really informed then.

Makes sense you are a doomer.


chriscov t1_j1putoy wrote

Maybe not, or maybe you're not conveying what you're talking about clearly enough.


Surur t1_j1pv15v wrote


chriscov t1_j1pvcul wrote

Yeah, the thing about climate engineering is that a lot of it is science fiction, or may have unintended consequences. Cloud seeding for example, may make things worse, or drive wars, we just don't know. It's all a lot more complicated that saying "technology will fix it"... as technology usually makes things worse.... that's the point iv was making.


Surur t1_j1pvlyx wrote

> as technology usually makes things worse

That is an incredibly bizarre point of view lol.

I could waste a lot of time, but I will just zoom right to the end - one day humans will be completely divorced from nature, and we will be sustained just by technology.


chriscov t1_j1pwht5 wrote

I don't dispute that being a possibility, but at the current rate its a lot more likelywe'll cause our extinction long before we get to that point.


Surur t1_j1pwnus wrote

Necessity is the mother of invention.


Jms1078 t1_j1rzyln wrote

As technology progresses it becomes more efficient and less damaging to the environment. Technology will progress to a net (-) carbon emission if that is what you are worried about.


darkjackcork t1_j1q2dae wrote

Yes. Robots are impossible with just computing.

People don't realize BD robots are modern stagecraft.

That is not to say flying machines won't be able to replace infantry, that is a separate problem and very simple. DARPA can't get android type robots to even open door handles, it is profoundly hard.

Flying a weapon into xyz coords is easy.


jdbrew t1_j1q4m3a wrote

My favorite thing about the 60s and 70s is how much they thought they were living in the future.

Yes, but we are nowhere near it. More in that in my next paragraph. There will be other, most likely human created, road blocks to furthering technology, not a limit on tech itself. As mentioned, AI/ML is burgeoning, but we are also just getting off the ground in CRSIPR/gene editing, Quantum Computing, disease prevention with mRNA vaccines… I think the next world changing consumer device, on par with or replacing the smartphone, will be AR. But there’s likely 10-20 years of further breakthroughs before we get there.

Ultimately, it comes down to science and new understanding. In early 1900s when we finally had a basic understanding of quantum mechanics, it led to us using that knowledge to create things like nuclear weapons, but it also is the same knowledge that led to solar panels, and fiber optic data transmission, and wifi, and now the beam forming that goes into Starlink receivers. Our understanding of relativity allowed for GPS… the more we learn and understand the fundamental nature of our universe, the more we can “hijack” it to use to our advantage. So the day will come where our understanding of physics and the universe will be complete, or at least, all knowable attributes have been discovered. Sometime after that, people will have attempted to use that knowledge in every way possible, and then yes, technology will likely cease to advance in any appreciable form.

But advancement of technology always comes in bursts. The Stone Age is named so because of a breakthrough, and the time period was defined by humans using tools that could make with their knowledge of handling and manipulating stone. Bronze Age, Iron Age, etc… we see them as clear cutoffs through the lens of history, but it was most likely a period of a new discovery, followed by a period of rapid technological advancement, followed by a period of non discovery and living with the current tech. Right now, we’re in constant discovery mode, and that won’t stop until we’ve discovered everything, or some other force (war, climate change, mass economic collapse, pandemic…) puts a stop to it.


basafish OP t1_j1q4tz8 wrote

Thanks for the answer. When do you think the next "bursts" will happen?


jdbrew t1_j1qgcoh wrote

We’re in the very early beginning of one. But they will also be short and closer together. One could successfully argue that despite it faults, capitalism has led us to a point where we will forever be living in constant breakthroughs. Enough Rich people have seen richer people get their wealth from having early control over the next technological break through; Gates with computers, Bezos with the internet, Musk with EVs, hell, Andrew Carnegie with steel. As much as many of us complain, myself included, believe that science isn’t funded, it’s really a complaint that science isn’t federally funded, so the breakthroughs aren’t owned by the populace, but by someone who can gatekeep it and make a personal fortune off of it. But that being said, science is being funded to a degree we’ve never seen before, it’s just being done privately, gambling on the promise of future riches. This isn’t a new concept, look at Bell Labs, Marconi Labs… but there seems to be much more of it. As long as this continues, our research discoveries, and by extension our technological breakthroughs will happen constantly, and we will move to a period of constant breakthrough.

Another way of looking at this is most people alive today have only experienced this constant rapid breakthrough. Almost every decade since 1900 has looked vastly different from the previous in terms of tech and consumer products. We’ve only known constant growth, and if you look at just the 2000’s, it’s more like every 5 years looks vastly different from the previous 5. We’re changing so fast.

we’re still dealing with the understanding of quantum mechanics since the 1900s and that is going to keep us busy for a long long time. That led us to what people are calling the silicon age or the information age, both of which are good descriptors, but AI/ML. There is concern about a stall in recent physics discoveries because we haven’t made a catastrophic leap like we did in the early 1900’s, but those are the anomalies, progress typically takes steady incremental changes, which is what we’ve done since. Made hypotheses, proved them wrong or accepted the conjecture, and then adjusted our perspective on how the physical world works.

Sometimes, we have the knowledge and don’t have the capability. LEDs are a good example. First invented in 1907, took over a century to become a mainstream consumer product. Beam forming in wireless communication is another… we had the math do that over a century ago, but the didn’t have the need or the manufacturing capability to utilize it.

Ok, enough history as precedent. Aside from the Information Age, aside from the break through a in healthcare which are the most impressive and largest leaps, we’re also knocking on the door of a space revolution. Mining on the moon, minimums asteroids, those leads to space vessel manufacturing in orbit, that leads to colonies on other planets. Necessity being the mother of invention, that’s how new drives are discovered, how new air purification/oxygen scrubbers get invented… I mean… there’s an endless pool of potential breakthrough here. Necessity being the mother of invention, we’re going to see new desalination techniques to being using ocean water to provide potable water, we’re going to see techniques for removing CO2 and pollutants from our atmosphere (something that is totally possible with enough energy, we just don’t have enough energy cheaply enough to make it financially viable.) enter Fusion, which have had some serious progress in the last few years, but also nuclear power is a great source for both desalination and de-pollution because it’s a constant power draw. Nuclear is difficult for municipalities because demand wavers so much; that wouldn’t be the case with desal and de-pol.

I mean… I can keep going. Battery tech, John B Goodenough synthesized the first Lithium Ion battery in the 70s, and it took 30 years to hit mainstream and it has edged out lead acid as the leading battery. Goodenough, although 100 years old now, is still researching and is working on new battery tech, solid state glass electrolyte batteries, that would decrease manufacturing cost, rely on minerals that don’t have such toxic mining operations, and increase energy density, decrease charge times, and are not susceptible to the degradation and shorting that lithium ion is.

We’re going to have a massive shift in the way we eat. Our climate is going to become hostile to traditional farming techniques and lab grown or synthesized proteins and and vegetables are going to become even more commonplace.

But we’re back to the capitalists making money theme here with some of them; fresh water, clean air, adequate food supply… these are global problems that we’ve ignored for so long. We’re going to solve world hunger the moment rich people think they can make money off it. We’re going to solve the fresh water problem, the moment rich people think they can make money off it. We’re going to solve the climate crisis the moment rich people think they can make money off it. It is the saving grace of techno-optimism. It allows capitalists the be greedy and still do a good thing.


basafish OP t1_j1qhs30 wrote

Thanks for your comment. Your breadth of knowledge and experience is astounding. Are you writing books?


sotonohito t1_j1qmex2 wrote

We don't know.

Is there an actual fixed number of things to learn? Or can science keep going and finding new things forever?

We're clearly nowhere near any limit currently, if there is one.

But if we don't go extinct and we keep learning will we hit a limit in 10,000 years? 1,000,000 years?

No idea.


Gilded-Mongoose t1_j1qs1ty wrote

I don’t think so. Every new step is a plateau.

I really think anti-matter or dark matter & discovering how to understand, and actually control or manipulate, the force of gravity are going to be HUGE difference makers.

True (not Hollywood or pedestrian) artificial intelligence and being able to truly create and design life will be similar game changers. Figuring out a concept of non-carbon based life will also be equally groundbreaking.

And finally the ability to continue the concept of “invisibility” fascinates me. I was deep in Popular Mechanics a long time ago and they were talking about the concept of invisibility - bending light waves around an object. It went from bending radio waves (ie radar invisibility), up to light waves (visual invisibility), and started talking about actual physical bending of things. Basically enabling physical things to not collide with each other. It was highly highly theoretical (like barely scientifically theoretical), but conceptually it makes you wonder how things will be 100 years from now, never mind 500 or another thousand.


r2k-in-the-vortex t1_j1qu1m7 wrote

Rate of technological advancements is actually pretty damn fast these days, it's simply that you might not quite realize what those "minor improvements" actually involve. Or even properly notice them because of how gradual they are. How about you try living with a phone or a computer form 10-20 years ago for a while, with software from that era. See how you like it.

You might not realize, but for a period in history, ours is absolutely exceptional. You can expect every single year that improved technology will be released to the market and absolutely it will happen. Some improvements minor, some bigger, but the improvements are constant and broad.

Any company that wants to stay relevant has to make constant gains in product and process development. If you try to do what you did a decade ago in the way you did it back then, it's financial suicide, you can't stay in competition like that. In contrast, our forefathers went their entire lives without a single noteworthy technological innovation getting developed.


pete_68 t1_j1ra3hc wrote

The upper limit will be when one person has the ability to kill everyone else. Once we hit that point, it's only a matter of time before someone does it. Why? Ask Stephen Paddock.

I think we're close, if not already there, with the ability to genetically engineer viruses. How long until some molecular virologist gets rejected by their lover and decides to kill us all off?


Emrak t1_j1rosc7 wrote

My guess is that it'll be a fringe group trying to "make the world a better place". X will seem to work rather well at first, but that's a mirage. It will only seem to work so well because human life spans are so brief. By the time the downsides are realized, it'll be too late. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.


OutcomeDoubtful t1_j1s7efl wrote

I think the upper limit of what we call technology only exists if we deny the fluid nature of consciousness and quantum mechanics..


FlightBunny t1_j1tn2q4 wrote

I don’t think we are hitting limits, it’s impossible to say really. People take smart phones and their capabilities for granted, but only 15-20 years ago much of todays technology was unthinkable, or the realms of science fiction.


36-3 t1_j1tn57j wrote

The upper limit of technology is when we end ourselves as a species. Letting the greenhouse climate run away, Nuclear war, Biological warfare (lessons of the Covid pandemic were not lost on the big players) or perhaps an accident like a fricken big asteroid hitting Earth and carving out a new moon. Otherwise, if the human race can keep from destroying itself, technology will keep on keepin' on. (just my humble opinion)


SeriousPuppet t1_j1toje0 wrote

I think what you're talking about has been referenced as "Moore's law is dead"

Because yeah, at some point things get "good enough" and so the rate of advancement slows down, eg with computer chips or screen resolutions (4k, then 8k, how much more will people care about? not much because the incremental improvement is not that noticeable to normal humans).

BUT... there are many areas where things are not "good enough". So those things perhaps will be on a Moore's law type curve. Transition to EVs from internal combustion, battery capacity, solar, etc.


1AlphaGeek1 t1_j1pi5rc wrote

I don't think so. I think that technology is the result of necessity driving innovation. They seem to be reach a point of diminishing rate of improvement, but that lasts only until new breakthroughs are achieved. We seem to be in the middle of one of those lulls right now, but I don't think we have reached the ceiling. Hell when you look at the technologies like AI , Quantum Computing and the newer forms of automation ,we seem to have scratched only the surface

Far from getting over, the new era is just getting started.


NotAnotherEmpire t1_j1ptusy wrote

Known limits are the laws of physics. There's a lot of fantastical sci-fi technology that violates core rules and will never happen.


CalligrapherDizzy201 t1_j1pwh9e wrote

You claim we have cured cancer. Who cured cancer and when did this happen? Also, we really aren’t that good at the feeding 8 billion people thing.


pretendperson t1_j1rizyj wrote

Well, we have 8 billion people alive and they are subsisting on some sort of food to so remain.


CalligrapherDizzy201 t1_j1rsa81 wrote

Tell that to all the people who starve to death on a daily basis.


pretendperson t1_j1rt8ve wrote

Can you cite some sources?


pretendperson t1_j1rvvet wrote

That is heartbreakingly sad. I think it's more of a distribution and supply chain issue than one of wanton cruelty, but a lot is just due to poverty endemic to certain areas.

If you're an overpopulation delusionist I suppose this would be good news, but you don't strike me as someone who glories in human suffering. Thanks for the additional info.


bustedbuddha t1_j1q20me wrote

I'm not sure I see anything beyond the ability to create matter from energy in specific forms. This assumes time travel and FTL are either impossible or already invented.


saltyhasp t1_j1q4nln wrote

There is surely an upper limit to useful technology but we are not near it. Who knows if we will ever reach it.

More to your point... there are short term limits to certain lines of technology. Lot of IT is pretty incremental at the moment. AI though there is a lot of activity. On the other hand desktop and laptop computers not much has changed in MS Windows since 2000. Cell phones may be at that point at the moment.


Heap_Good_Firewater t1_j1qfioj wrote

Eventually, you run up against the laws of physics, but we don’t fully know what those are yet, so I assume we have a lot of room to run.

It does seem like breakthroughs have slowed down recently, but I chalk this up to a lot of the low-hanging fruit being gone. I think we are laying the groundwork for some truly amazing advances, but they may take longer than we imagine.


Enkundae t1_j1qxoya wrote

The primary limiting factor to both population growth and technological development are actually the same; Our ability to deal with waste heat. For higher tiers of the Kardashev scale, heat is effectively the only hurdle. Megastructures in orbit around earth and the moon could comfortably house and support a population in the trillions as long as the radiant heat from both people and machines could be regulated.


ProphecyRat2 t1_j1r2awn wrote

“Feeding 8 billion people”

Idk what world you live in, there are billions of people starving, and a few who eat so much they become obese. What a disgusting reality.


pretendperson t1_j1rp2yl wrote

If billions of people are starving to death why do we now have 8 billion people?


ProphecyRat2 t1_j1s72o3 wrote

Same reason we have 26 Billion Chickens. You can survive in a concrete box on scraps.


sleeppyboii t1_j1rjm82 wrote

Humans limitations are the only limitations besides physics like we could make things that could travel fast as fuck but we couldn't survive inside so that's our limit things like this is what limits us from instantly expanding tech were too flabby n weak to handle it all


pab_guy t1_j1rqhz0 wrote

We don't even control biology yet, much less high energy and advanced material science applications for all kinds of crazy shit. Space elevators? Climate control? Asteroid mining? All possible with the right advancements and each would be revolutionary on it's own.

There are certain areas where we will have seen a given technology mature or improve to the point where a new paradigm must be found for further advancement, but that's usually in the realm of precision and limits of things at the atomic scale: Moore's law will not survive such limits, for example.

So the future is not a linear progression from here, but there's plenty of technology left to create.


adrik0622 t1_j1rx48p wrote

No. We’re on the cusp of having AI change our lives in a more impactful way than google did. Applied quantum processing will come next probably followed by fusion. There are lots of things to be excited for in the near future. Or afraid of if that’s what you fancy.


Fantastic_Sample t1_j1rxicy wrote

I have this belief that at almost any point in the future* we could reach a point where the fact that we specialize really effectively will run up against some limit of social organization, and we just will not be able to get enough specialists to effectively communicate on a project, and the project will fail. This happens all the time...and it could be the end of technological expansion: if we can't organize enough people to complete the project, the project cannot progress.

We already depend on deeply, wildly complicated, trans-national supply chains with many, many steps. Logistics experts are becoming the new crop of best business men. What happens if the problems become so complicated that a pretty smart mark 1 human just can't succeed?

*and I'm often scared that the future here was last month, and the news hasn't reached me yet...


FrankieMcGigglefits t1_j1s1uno wrote

Well, once you're immortal and able to shape reality, I'd say that's the upper limit.


LaFlibuste t1_j1s6cm8 wrote

"Technology had a pretty good run, developping agriculture and feeding the masses, harnessing the power of the elements, but lately it feels like all we can do is build bigger windmills and watermills. Have we reached the upper limit of technological potential?"


blueridgebeing t1_j1sb84d wrote

If you’re interested in this topic, I highly recommend reading the trilogy of novels called the Three Body Problem in its US editions. Incredible science fiction epic that addresses this question in ways I don’t want to spoil for you.


GI_X_JACK t1_j1sce4o wrote

Technology isn't a field, but rather a type of fields. It encompasses many things.

Every type of technology has its limits. Yes.


Molnan t1_j1sdiq4 wrote

In theory there must be a limit defined by the laws of physics, but we haven't even scratched the surface. If there's a limit to what's physically possible, it doesn't look like a cooler phone or a better therapy for some types of cancer, it looks like artificial superintelligence, full-fledged molecular nanotechnology and atomically precise manufacturing as described by Drexler and others, mind uploading and radical enhancement, matrioshka brains, cosmological lifespans, Von Neumann probes all over the galaxy and beyond, that kind of thing, and probably lots of stuff we haven't even thought of yet.


xombie25 t1_j1smhax wrote

Yes, functionally, from an engineering perspective there is a finite number of ways that molecules can get together or energies can be applied to said molecules.

Finding new materials or new compounds or manufacturing new compounds is often how we drive technological innovation.


Top-Offer-4056 t1_j1so3hg wrote

Nope we haven’t unlocked the good stuff yet, maybe in 50-100 years


4BigHoffy t1_j1ssg5a wrote

Yep! We're just scratching at the surface still though!


MLGcobble t1_j1sx3qg wrote

> feeding 8 billion people

I'm no scientist but last time I checked we still had a ton of world hunger


NoxTheorem t1_j1tahii wrote

I don't think we're even close to any kind of technological limit. Were just scratching the surface of bio-technology, AI, and quantum computing... In the coming decades were going to see those make huge impacts on society. Each of them alone is akin to inventing the wheel or writing, and they are all in their first steps.

There is probably some sort of upper limit of technology, but it's far beyond our current developments and understanding.


PlumAcceptable2185 t1_j1td0to wrote

At some point, running electricity through hardware will be odd and clunky. But some of what we are doing now with tech is just a preparation for leaving and entering other bodies, and other planes of being. Technology is not just material tools and frameworks for building things. It is also ways of thinking that reorient, and even cause new data to be perceived.
There are other things/artifacts? that emerge from all the culminating data points, but hopefully someone can comment on that.


drcha0s t1_j1vy1ca wrote

I think the upper limit is only bound by imagination. Physics and the making of the universe are far from well understood.


i_wayyy_over_think t1_j1q3je4 wrote

Ask this question after GPT-4 come out. ChaptGPT can already program pretty darn good.


neophanweb t1_j1qq610 wrote

We may have hit a roadblock, but there's definitely room to grow once we get through it. Look back at history. we still don't know how to build pyramids like the ones in Egypt. We still can't go to the moon.


DoctorMomoustache t1_j1pg8s8 wrote

>We have seen technology going from feeding few people to feeding 8 billion people

So all those hungry people are fed? Ah, I was under the assumption that there was serious food insecurity for a lot of African countries.


pretendperson t1_j1risk5 wrote

Read up about the technological breakthrough of extraction of ammonia from the atmosphere and subsequent extraction of nitrogen to fertilize crops in massive quantities. That alone saved the lives of billions of people - prior to that technology a famine every 10 years would wipe out millions and millions of the population of any given region.


vimotazka t1_j1pl3h3 wrote

You are a profoundly unintelligent person. Just painful.