>Technology and Trash Compactors [Updated]

>[updated Jan 11, 2011]

Sci-fi has a special place in my heart. I was raised on Star Wars, so I guess that makes me a geek. But isn’t it just fun to see the imaginings of the future, and ponder whether it will really be that way? Well, can it?

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=fitmedia-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B0013FSL3E&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrRobots of all kinds populate the universes of sci-fi stories, from mechanical Swiss army knives like Star Wars’ R2-D2, to neurotic, useless androids like Douglas Adams’ Marvin from Hitchhiker’s Guide; and from personable trash compactors like Pixar’s WALL-E, to human-simulants like Star Trek: NG’s Data that have all the personality of a trash compactor. Robots fill numerous roles in stories, they are characters or props, friends or enemies, humanoid or mechanoid.

One thing seems to be a constant through all this: robots are immortal. I’ve seen them be destroyed, of course, but I’ve never seen them age. Now you might think, “Well, they’re robots!” Good point, but do you own any piece of technology that is immortal?

WALL-E has been at his job (unaided by humans) for 700 years. Marvin and Bender (Futurama) both get left in time, to be recovered more than a millenium later. Will we ever create technology that outlives the pyramids?

Somehow, I think it is impossible. Even if technology didn’t have the lifespan of a gerbil, most becomes obsolete before a child learns to use it (which is at 3 years, in my experience). As long as technology continues to improve, it will continue to generate obsolesense and waste. The wasted products can only be reused to the degree that they still operate, and only be recycled to the degree that they are made of quality components.

But then, if they really are made of quality components, wouldn’t they tend to operate for a longer period of time? Longer? Yes. Forever? Not so much. I don’t endorse slowing the progress of technology coersively, but I would encourage those in the market for progressive technology to consider how much waste “forever” will produce if we continue to treat non-consumable products as if they were biodegradable. For a wonderful illustration, I encourage you to watch WALL-E, even if you don’t have kids.

I will say that there is nothing inherently wrong with “buy’n large” culture, provided that we can squeeze every ounce of value out of the products we consume. People make their living through the production and sale of goods and services. It is accurate to say that the more we buy, the better the economy gets, but this is not the whole truth. The truth is that when you pay for a product, you also pay for its waste. So when a given product is “used up” its remains represent the volume of trash that you bought and wasted money on. Therefore, an economy that is based upon a high volume of purchases, but not upon high value products, is actually degenerating.

Ideally, “buy’n large” economies should focus on producing and marketing items that have zero waste. Even with the sale of information, it is difficult to say that this is possible because it depends so much on the individual’s ability and will to extract the value. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, after all. Perhaps the best way to encourage prosperity in a consumer culture is to focus on producing food—the ultimate consumable.

Our bodies have a built-in trash compactor: our systems absorb all useful nutrients from our digested food, and whatever we can’t use gets excreted in a reduced form—and even a biodegradable one. If science is to benefit us in the future, it seems to me that it ought to invest its time in making better food, not better robots.

What would be the point if our technology outlives us?


0 Responses to “>Technology and Trash Compactors [Updated]”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Get Involved

Promoting art on television starts with you. Take the Varolo user tour, and become part of the change!




"For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction."

- Kahlil Gibran

"All television is educational television. The question is: what is it teaching?"
- Nicholas Johnson, author:
"We need the media to be presenting pictures of possibility not just continuing to be prophets of doom and gloom."
- Kevin Kelly, Wired

"How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it."

- Adam Smith
"And the science is overwhelming that for creative, conceptual tasks, those if-then rewards rarely work and often do harm."
- Daniel Pink, author: Drive

"I wish we had a Problem-Solver Party because we have very big problems that need solving. And I think a lot of our attention is addressed to the wrong problems."
- David McCullough, author: 1776
"The goal shouldn't be to have a lot of people to yell at, the goal probably should be to have a lot of people who choose to listen."
- Seth Godin, author: Tribes
"The role of the media is to disseminate information, highlight important current events, and to essentially stand as a witness, an observer of cultural, political, community, and educational events. A healthy media provides a check on the government and increases the political astuteness of republican citizens."
- Stephen Palmer, The Center for Social Leadership
"Advertisers and politicians rely on a half-educated public, on people who know little outside of their own specialty, because such people are easy to deceive with so-called experts, impressive technical or sociological jargon, and an effective set of logical and psychological tricks."
- Robert Harris
"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
- John Adams
"I know no safe repository of the ultimate power of society but people. And if we think them not enlightened enough, the remedy is not to take the power from them, but to inform them by education."
- Thomas Jefferson
"Fathers and mothers have lost the idea that the highest aspiration they might have for their children is for them to be wise--as priests, prophets or philosophers are wise. Specialized competence and success are all that they can imagine."
- Allan Bloom, author: The Closing of the American Mind
"He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed."
(Proverbs 13:20)
"If you are not a thinking man, to what purpose are you a man at all."

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"I learn a lot from TV. Everytime someone turns one on, I go in the other room and read a book."
- Groucho Marx, comedian: Duck Soup
"There are two freedoms - the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where he is free to do what he ought."
- Charles Kingsley

%d bloggers like this: