“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
— Arthur C. Clark, author
In this week’s episode we have a discussion on technology. Mr. Beard kick-starts the tech talk explaining the invention of the transistor. A seemingly under-appreciated component of so many devices and tools that we have grown to depend on like a basic switch or electronic signal. From an electrical technology perspective, we bring the wonderful and brilliant Nikola Tesla into the conversation, the man that developed the practices to tap into the Earth’s magnetic field or ‘Magnetosphere’ to generate perpetual energy devices and the invention of alternating current.
We explore the invention of the Sony Walkman out of Japan, and how this portable technology revolutionised music listening for the masses, and how a cool yellow brick on your pants gave rise to the next generation of personal music devices like the iPod. We go through a timeline of communications technology starting from cave drawings and smoke signals, all the way up to mobile phones and WiFi technology which is an application of Tesla’s inventions more than 100 years later.
We can’t escape a conversation on computing and the unbelievable advances that we have witnessed in recent decades. Mr. Beard introduces the Blockchain and gives a description of its invention by an anonymous person or group known only as Satoshi Nakamoto. Blockchain has the power to change and revolutionise the world through operations like cryptocurrency, NFTs and a host of new communications platforms.
We are of course going through a global medical transformation in 2021. Many people cite the invention of the vaccine as one of the major biological/ medical breakthroughs of the modern age. This is mirrored also by projects like the human genome project of the 70’s. Mapping and understanding human DNA sequencing has opened up Pandora’s Box to the brilliance of biology, from the study of molecular interactions between protein folding in bioinformatics to the development of the next generation in medical technology. It is said that this decade will be the decade of biological sciences.
The main topic of this episode is ‘technology’. Google defines ‘technology’ as “machinery and equipment developed from the application of scientific knowledge.”, so it is easy to think of technology simply as gadgets and physical things. And while this is true, it does not give you the whole picture. Language, for example, is also a technology – it is not something that you can touch or hold, but it is a technology that has impacted our civilisation to a degree that it is hard to imagine anything else matching it.
Being human is about so much more than what we can touch and hold – it is also about our emotions, our connections and our dreams. Technology will give us the opportunities to reinvent ourselves, to reinvent what it means to be human, but it will also make us face difficult decisions. How much technology is too much? Where will we draw the line between our reality and some new augmented reality? How much of ‘being human’ (with warts and all) will we preserve versus how much will we gloss over with the aid of technology?
Check out this TED Talk by Jordan Nguyen on how we can improve our current reality with the aid of technology, while also raising the question of where to draw the line (and how this line might be different from one person to the next).
Found something interesting discussed in this episode? Chances are, we found it interesting too and we went off and did a bunch of reading online about it.
So why not dive further into the topic! Here are some handy links we think you might like.
A transistor is a semiconductor device used to amplify or switch electronic signals and electrical power. Transistors are one of the basic building blocks of modern electronics.
The first working device to be built was a point-contact transistor invented in 1947 by American physicists John Bardeen and Walter Brattain while working under William Shockley at Bell Labs. The three shared the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics for their achievement.
The transistor is considered the greatest invention of the 20th century. For more information on the history of the transistor and its invention, why not check out this documentary.
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American engineer and physicist (1856-1943) who made dozens of breakthroughs in the production, transmission and application of electric power. He invented the first alternating current (AC) motor and developed AC generation and transmission technology. He also invented the Tesla Coil (modern analogue would be the Roden Coil, a perpetual energy device), AC current and WiFi. (See link for Tesla story below).
Check out this YouTube video on ‘Edison vs Tesla, with Elon Musk’s perspective on them both as well. It is a thought-provoking look at this super interesting time in human innovation and deceit.
The original Walkman, released in 1979, was a portable cassette player that allowed people to listen to music of their choice on the move. Since then, over 300 different models of Walkman have been released.
The Walkman became an icon in 1980s culture. In 1986, the word “Walkman” entered the Oxford English Dictionary.
The Walkman has been cited to not only change people’s relationship to music but also technology, due to its “solitary” and “personal” nature, as users were listening to their own music of choice rather than through a radio. It has been seen as a precursor of personal mainstream tech possessions such as personal computers or mobile phones.
Check out this video to see a history of the Walkman and how it grew to become a cultural icon and a design classic.
The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international scientific research project with the goal of determining the base pairs that make up human DNA, and of identifying and mapping all of the genes of the human genome from both a physical and a functional standpoint. The HGP and its results gave rise to a new scientific discipline called ‘bioinformatics’.
Bioinformatics is the discipline of biological and medical data analysis and interpretation. This field of biology also incorporates epigenetic and cybernetics in modelling human physiology and biochemical mechanisms. A couple of applications of this field of study are vaccines and Neuralink.
Another example is ultrasound technology. Commonly known as being used in pregnancy scans, but it seems we may be on the verge of turning science fiction into science fact with invention of the ‘Star Trek medical tricorder‘!
A blockchain is a decentralized, distributed, and oftentimes public, digital ledger consisting of records called blocks that is used to record transactions across many computers so that any involved block cannot be altered retroactively, without the alteration of all subsequent blocks. This allows the participants to verify and audit transactions independently and relatively inexpensively. A blockchain database is managed autonomously using a peer-to-peer network and a distributed timestamping server.
The first blockchain was conceptualized by a person (or group of people) known as Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008. The design was implemented the following year by Nakamoto as a core component of the cryptocurrency bitcoin, where it serves as the public ledger for all transactions on the network.
It has been said that what the internet did for traditional media, Blockchain technology will do for finance and many other industries.
Check out this great TED Talk by Don Tapscott, in which he explains in plain language what the Blockchain is and how it will be a major disrupting force for many industries, and in particular the finance industry.
Enjoyed this episode? Hopefully you found some of the additional information on this page interesting or useful. Why not check out one of our other episodes – we think you will like them too! 🙂
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