Most of the topics addressed in this column have focused on the Internet which is just one of many technologies. To begin, let’s be sure about what “technology” really is. According to Britannica, it is “the application of scientific knowledge to the practical aims of human life or, as it is sometimes phrased, to the change and manipulation of the human environment.” (https://www.britannica.com/technology/technology)
Of course, there is an opposite school of thought which cautions us to be wary of change, ranging from “The best way to clear up muddy water is to let it alone” (an ancient Zen Buddhist proverb) to the more succinct maxim provided by the Beatles in the song “Let it Be”. Obviously, the truth resides somewhere between the two philosophies. Another way to look at it is as a nice symbiotic relationship between science and engineering. Science advances engineering which in turn advances science. Science is the basis for engineering and engineering is used to build structures that can be used to test the science. Three good examples are medical, gaming and climate technologies.
THE GAMES WE PLAY
Medical technology has advanced from the use of plants and chants to X-rays and pharmaceuticals to prevent, diagnose and ameliorate many diseases and other mishaps. A contemporary example could be found in our country’s response to the scourge of COVID. Because of advances in other technologies such as transportation and communication, COVID has been slowly but steadily beaten back.
Games, on the other hand, are considered to be a waste of time to many but a tonic for many others. They are flourishing under the wing of the Internet but they existed in various forms several thousand years ago.
“The history of games dates to the ancient human past. Games are an integral part of all cultures and are one of the oldest forms of human social interaction. Games are formalized expressions of play which allow people to go beyond immediate imagination and direct physical activity. Common features of games include uncertainty of outcome, agreed upon rules, competition, separate place and time, elements of fiction, elements of chance, prescribed goals and personal enjoyment. Games capture the ideas and worldviews of their cultures and pass them on to the future generation. Games were important as cultural and social bonding events, as teaching tools and as markers of social status. As pastimes of royalty and the elite, some games became common features of court culture and were also given as gifts. Games …were seen as a way to develop strategic thinking and mental skill by the political and military elite.”
“In his 1938 book, Homo Ludens, Dutch cultural historian Johan Huizinga argued that games were a primary condition of the generation of human cultures. Huizinga saw the playing of games as something that “is older than culture, for culture, however inadequately defined, always presupposes human society, and animals have not waited for man to teach them their playing”. Huizinga saw games as a starting point for complex human activities such as language, law, war, philosophy and art.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_games)
You don’t read much about Climate Technology (except in my good friend’s column above) but I recently came across an article in the Wall Street Journal by Patricia Price that updates the general public on the existing technologies that address climate change.
The article begins with a short discussion of the problem and follows with a range of possible solutions, “Climate experts on a United Nations panel recently expressed concern about the state of climate science, saying the past decade saw the highest average yearly greenhouse-gas emissions from human activities ever recorded. Countries, they said, must make major, rapid shifts away from fossil fuels if they have any hope of meeting goals laid out in the 2015 Paris Climate Accords…. The Wall Street Journal recently asked energy academics and researchers which specific climate-technology breakthroughs they think have the potential to be most transformative. Some talked about technologies on the horizon; others focused on existing technologies that could be to help get the world to zero by 2050.
In a future column, I’ll try to summarize what they said about the new technologies being developed to end or at least reduce the effects of climate change. and if you can’t wait , the quickest way to get to Price’s full article is to search on: “Can technology save the day? “ An interesting question, as technology was partially responsible for our current dilemma. Can technology be used to solve the problems created by technology or will it make things even worse? I have no answer but I do know that we must proceed very carefully.
Dr. Stewart A. Denenberg is an emeritus professor of computer science at Plattsburgh State, retiring recently after 30 years there. Before that, he worked as a technical writer, programmer and consultant to the US Navy and private Industry. Send comments and suggestions to his blog at www.tec-soc.blogspot.com, where there is additional text and links. He can also be reached at email@example.com.