Technology and Evolution

NCR N-530 Bombe Enigma Decryption Machine

Technology is a term that is broadly used and highly misunderstood. It is the art of, or skill that is based on the underlying principle of a certain field of knowledge. This results in the creation of tools or machinery that area appropriate to manipulate the system in question. In electric motors, it is understanding the principles of electromagnetic induction leading to the creation of the electric motor, and all the tools and equipment that goes into making these devices.

The subject could be anything. In computing, the underlying field of knowledge is the ability to render complex problems into binary code and writing processes that solve the desired problem. In primitive architecture it might be the skill or art of forming bricks and understanding the appropriate building shapes that can be constructed to create safe shelters.

The application of technology is an entirely different matter. Technology has a limitation based on value. The usefulness or importance of technology defines how widely it is applied. The cellphone is very widely used and has spawned giant industries to supply the demand for this technology. This is due to the value that society places on the usefulness of the cellphone combined with the low cost that producers have been able to achieve.

There are many technologies of human transportation based on personal use and mass use. Electric cars, however, are not achieving the mass acceptance that is consistent with how we value clean transportation. This is because the cost of electric cars, and hybrid buses for that matter, have not fallen to the competitive level that can displace combustion solutions.

In this regard, the economics of the situation are perfectly consistent with an “evolutionary” model of the technology. New technology displaces the old when the cost of the new tech falls below the old tech or is low enough to promote widespread adoption. Anyone still own an analog watch? or a watch at all? Remember floppy disks? or tube monitors? Anyone have a phone booth in their neighborhood? Of course not, all these things have been displaced by the new tech because the new stuff is so much less expensive and more convenient.