Technology

The importance of smartphones

Smartphones are everywhere. People use them in rich countries and poor countries. Sometimes very poor people have smartphones, even when they live in slums. I think that most people understand how important smartphones can be. For example, some taxi drivers would have less business without a smartphone. This is because they can find riders through an app and make more money than just looking for customers on the street.

Phones have changed a lot in the last 20 years. I remember when you could only make calls on cellphones. Now, you can take free classes from top universities. You can record a video, edit it and upload it to social media.  

There are many apps available—over 2.8 million are available for download on the Google Play Store. Apple's App store has more than 1.8 million. Some people use these apps a lot. Research shows that 20% of millennials open an app more than 50 times per day. In general, most people use 10 apps each day.

The evolution of video games

Video games have changed a lot in the last 30 years. In the 1990s, Nintendo's Super Mario Brothers looked very high-tech.

In 2001, Halo: Combat Evolved was released. It was the first game where a player could explore a limited 3D map. The engine also allowed the player to have different experiences. For example, the enemies acted differently every time you played the same map.

AI's impact on the movie industry

The film industry is grappling with concerns about the future in light of the rapid advancements of AI technology. When questioned about these potential effects, ChatGPT emphasizes how AI can assist humans, making tasks like scriptwriting, special effects, and audience analysis faster and more effective. It highlights that AI is a tool without any sinister plans to take over the world.

Conversely, the perspectives of human interviewees paint a somewhat gloomier picture of the future. Their biggest fear is that their creative work will soon be replaced and go unrecognized. The ability to synthesize voices and digitally alter faces through visual effects is already a reality. In fact, this technology was utilized to de-age Harrison Ford in the latest Indiana Jones movie, and AI has replicated James Earl Jones' iconic Darth Vader voice for the upcoming Star Wars series.

J. J. Abrams & the Mystery Box

J.J. Abrams has created many action and sci-fi films and TV series. A few of the best-known are Star Wars, Mission Impossible III; and the TV show, Lost. Abrams loved magic when he was a boy. He once bought a Magic Mystery Box. For $15, he got $50 worth of magic. He carried the box everywhere he went, but he never opened it. Why not? He finally realized that it was the mystery that was so special. Not knowing what's in the box allowed him to imagine it. Mystery inspires imagination. So the box helped him use his imagination.

Abrams sees today's technology as part of the magic. Without special effects, he couldn't bring his stories to life.

In math terms, you could say:

Mystery + imagination + technology = magic!

For Abrams, magic exists wherever there is mystery. And technology can help us see it.

Using DNA to track supply chain

Consumers are becoming more interested in sustainability and want to know for sure where products come from. One way to do this is to use DNA. For example, a supplier in the US grows organic cotton. The cotton is then sprayed with a unique DNA combination. This makes it easy to find out if a final product is made from that cotton. No one can substitute cheaper, non-organic cotton anywhere in the supply chain.

Another concern is labor practices. Consumers want to be sure the workers who produce the goods are treated well. The US has established new rules requiring companies to prove that imported goods were not made with forced labor. If they can't, then the goods are seized at the border. From January to March in 2023, border officials seized almost $1 billion worth of shipments.

The power of ChatGPT

A few months ago, major tech company OpenAI launched ChatGPT and it quickly became a viral chatbot tool. Since then, it has impressed everyone by creating original essays, short stories, instruction sets and even coding. Users can run it for free as long as they create a personal account. They can simply type their request, and ChatGPT will execute it for them.

The Right to Repair movement

When I was growing up in the 1960s and '70s, things were made to last. My husband and I have a waffle iron that belonged to his grandmother—it's about 80 or 90 years old and it still works! My father loved to fix things and taught me to love it, too. So repairing things seems natural to me.

However, these days things are made to break down. It's called "planned obsolescence". Manufacturers make sure their products will stop working after a few years. Some obsolescence is natural as new products are added and technology advances. But planned obsolescence becomes a problem when the manuals and parts for repair aren't made available. Consumers are forced to discard products and buy new ones, creating huge amounts of waste. And small repair shops can't stay in business, hurting local economies.

Gazing at satellites

When I was a kid, my father would drag us out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to watch a rocket launch, on our fuzzy little 9" black-and-white TV. They were momentous occasions. When I was 7, the Apollo 11 mission took us to the moon. I saw that happen! It was awesome.

For years after that, my father would point out satellites as they traveled across the night sky. It was amazing to see them out there. But that was about 50 years ago. Today there are so many satellites that you almost always see one. And with the new mega-satellite arrays being developed, that number is going to explode. SpaceX alone plans to launch more than 30,000 in the near future. While this will make huge advances possible in various technologies, it will also add to a new problem—satellite pollution. 

Embracing change

Humans find it difficult to adapt to change and this is evident in how technological advances are viewed. This is nothing new because even Socrates, the architect of Western philosophy, wasn't too excited about the introduction of writing, as he felt people would become more forgetful.

It may be natural to fear change, but we have to realize that by nurturing this kind of fear, we are resisting innovations that could improve our quality of life, productivity and connectivity. 

The fear of technological change shows a lack of trust. As it stands, Americans don’t trust each other, our corporations or our public institutions. The absence of trust means a lot of damage has been done and the only way to fix this is to ensure everyone has the information that is essential to building trust back up.

Visuals: Children's dream jobs

Adecco, a Japanese company providing human resource services, conducted a national survey asking 900 elementary and junior high school boys and girls what job they wanted to do when they grew up. Many children showed an interest in jobs that involve digital technology, which is no surprise since they have been surrounded by the technology since birth.

The detailed results of the survey are shown below.
 



elementary [adjective] /el-uh-MEN-tuh-ree/—simple or early stages of studying