We need real Technology

25 02 2009

To get started, when I talk about technology I do not mean the gadgets you buy from your local Apple store. I mean real technology, the result of basic research from  industrial implementation. Not that consumer technology is less important. But we have lots of that. This is abundant in all tech stores. I mean the real thing,the one that got us on the moon.

Technology and research are public goods and should be treated as such. These are the products of our intelligence. Technology is equally important and fundamental in that it mobilises the economy. Market economy does not exist without technology – at least not for long.

The magic hand of the market gets old and wrinkled if we do not inject technology to it. Consider any product that is subject to supply and demand to settle its price. Consider that in general inflation will occur. The result is that the price of the product will rise, continuously, though demand is probably the same or diminishes. Only technology can solve the problem, as it can reduce the cost of the product and thus compensate for the inflation. Not only that, but it will also invent new products, new ways to produce stuff and improve our lives. Technology creates real value out of resources. Comparing iPod 2004 to iPod 2008 has more marketing behind than technology. Compare iPod and phonograph.

The product you sell today is the result of technological achievements. If you sell a computer today, that’ s because there was extensive basic research in math and materials during the last century. But the over-optimisation of profit for the investment, results in companies shutting down research labs and “instead focus on more immediately marketable areas including networking, high-speed electronics, wireless networks, nanotechnology and software.”

But what will they sell tomorrow? What will be “marketable” in ten years? The same things? Can this be?

Basic research and technology are the driving factors of economy. But fast economic growth slows down or halts technological progress because of companies trying to optimise profits.

Just look around today: the most influential invention of the 21st century is the iPod… the iPod… and then think about the 20th century or the 19th or the 18th…

Tech freaks brag that we can predict the performance of computers using Moore’s law… Shit, we can predict technological advancement and we are happy about it? What’s next? Predict our future? Isn’t technology supposed to surprise us?

The last 20 years we have seen a huge financial bubble and in order to have that, there has been absolutely no technological advancement. NASA cannot even put a satellite in orbit any more!

My point again: forced financial growth decelerates or halts technology growth dooming our future. Fast money today means no progress tomorrow. We need the power of the market to balance economics in the short term, but in order to improve our quality of life we need technological progress at no matter what cost. We cannot go on living as if there is no tomorrow and tolerate this kind of money making. The pressure of the market on companies has reducedbasicresearch tothe minimum. But it does not stop there: profit maximizationhas hit the universities and research institutes. After all they are all money making instituions, employing people that have to become moneymakers at soem point and not day dreamers.

But what will become of us without daydreamers? Scientists that are allowed to pursuetheir thought games and offer us a vision oftheworld to come?

So what’s there to be done? Technology is a public good. To me it is a fundamental resource backing money supply. Basic research is a positive externallity because it produces technology. Basic research should be subsidised and endorsed, at any cost because the benefits from it are countless and endless.

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