REACTION: Have All the Important Things Already Been Invented? | Walter I Baltzley

Smart Planet recently posted an article titled Have All the Important Things Already Been Invented?.  And given that this is a subject near and dear to my own heart, I could not help but respond here.

This is not a new question.  Back in 1899 the then Comissioner of the US Patent Office Charles H. Duell infamously uttered the words, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”  A lot has been invented since then–radios, microwaves, computers, rockets, cell-phones, and the internet to name a few.  And there remains a LOT to be invented.

Most of these inventions involve the convergence of existing technologies–merging telecommunications, entertainment, and computing for example.  TV’s, Cell-Phones, and Computers are all becoming integrated to the point where they are essentially the same device in a different box.

Other inventions involve re-engineering older technologies using new processes.  For example, replacing compression based refrigeration with solid-state thermoelectrics operating on the Seebeck Effect.  This will make cooling more efficient and better for the environment.  Another re-engineering involves using spin-currents rather than electricity in computers–which would increase speed and reduce energy consumption by MANY orders of magnitude.  Finally, we have chemical micro-reactors and additive manufacturing (3D Printing) which replace a wide range of traditional manufacturing methods.

Last, we have the emergence of new technologies to connect or merge other technologies.  Just as computer networks and the internet emerged to connect digital devices, I predict the emergence of integrated micro-reactor networks and a Digital Matter-Net.  Similarly, Cloud Computing was invented to take advantage of idle system resources, and I believe that with the development of automated vehicles, similar systems will be developed to take advantage of idle transportation resources.  In addition providing a large sensor and communications array for these vehicles will allow us to take advantage of something science fiction fans have wanted forever–FLYING CARS.  Finally, just as keyboards and mice were developed to help us better interface with computers, Brain-Computer Interfaces and wearable displays are being developed to help us better interface with robots.

So, in short my answer to this question is a resounding NO.


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