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David LePoireRSS Feed of this column.

Dave explores the connections between energy, the environment, and technology. He currently works at a U.S. national laboratory on a variety of environmental science and homeland security projects... Read More »

Often the term technology explosion is used to indicate the rapid growth of technology in areas such as information technology or biotechnology. Usually, the assumption is that innovation creates great new approaches and products that will improve our conditions. Often this advance is true and beneficial but do we really want technology advances to explode? The word explode is often associated with reactions that are out of control and usually cause significant damage. We often feel some technology out of our control when we are bombarded with new IT systems that promise efficiencies but often are incompatible with each other and shift the burden of the workflow.

A while back I wrote about the program I was involved with

For most of human history, technology changed very little during a person’s lifetime. Certainty, their life was not constant with the hard agricultural life being interrupted by war, disease, and famine. However, very few new technologies would come into their life. In contrast, tremendous change occurred throughout the 20th century as planes, cars, electricity, radio, and computers enter during their lives. In my life, I have also experienced rapid change, but it seems a bit different, more quantitative than the qualitative change seen by my grandparents’.

News concerning Artificial Intelligence (AI)  abounds again. The progress with Deep Learning techniques are quite remarkable with such demonstrations of self-driving cars, Watson on Jeopardy, and beating human Go players. This rate of progress has led some notable scientists and business people to warn about the potential dangers of AI as it approaches a human level. Exascale computers are being considered that would approach what many believe is this level. 

How would one detail in the past affect how technology and science evolved? The a recent blog I highlighted the unique role of fossil fuels in a transition from one energy sustainable society to another future potential society. I constructed the metaphor of this current transition as launching a rocket into orbit. The topic of what might have happened if oil never formed was addressed later.

Technology development and use is one of the distinguishing human characteristics.