January 29, 2015

A glowing laptop

Technology offers more potential than ever before. Credit: Ludovic / Flickr Creative Commons

We’re living in an unprecedented technological age. If you want proof, pull that powerful computer out of your pocket and take a closer look at it.
 
A 64 gigabyte smartphone “has one million times more digital storage capacity than the computer that went to the moon on board Apollo 11 in 1969,” says Robert Bryce, author of Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong.
 
And it’s not just computers and other gadgets. Technology has made money cheaper and more accessible. Bryce points to SafariCom, a Kenyan telecommunications company, and their mobile currency: M-pesa. M-pesa allows Kenyans to use their cell phones – instead of cash – to pay for goods and services.
 
This low-cost mobile currency has become vital to the Kenyan economy, in part because it’s often safer than carrying cash.

“For people who are living – in some case impoverished lives or very low income lives – the ability to carry money on their phone is a remarkable breakthrough,” says Bryce.
 
Bryce argues that those naysayers out there – the ones who say innovation can't keep up at this pace, or that the costs are too high – are wrong.
 
“We’ve been hearing since the days of Malthus that we’re running out, that there’s not enough,” says Bryce.

For decades, he explains, the peak oil movement has predicted that oil supplies would run dry, but today markets are flooded with cheap oil. “Better technology is allowing us to produce more oil than ever before, but it’s not just a supply story. It’s also a consumption story and we’re getting better and better at using that oil," he adds.

And, Bryce says, while there are environmental issues associated with ongoing innovation – like the toxic e-waste dumps polluting many areas of the world – the benefits outweigh those downsides.

“We will impose costs on the planet, we will impose costs on each other, but we are improving living standards more than any other time in human history. More people are living longer, healthier, freer lives than at any other time in human history.”
 
One more note of optimism for the road: Bryce also believes that America will continue to be the premier innovation hotspot. “This idea about starting your own company – being an entrepreneur – it’s very deeply rooted in how Americans view themselves.”

Robert Bryce, Culture, technology, Smaller Faster Cheaper Lighter Denser

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