Technological progress is stagnating
May 1st 2016
Computers have always evolved fairly fast. Every year, new amazing progresses were made. But these times, things are more stagnating.
Why is that? Maybe we're just reaching the point where new progress isn't needed. Or atleast, not in the same direction as before.
A good example of that is the resolutions our TVs can display. A few years ago, we have seen the arrival of HDTVs which were a pretty good improvement from SD. Now are arriving 4K TVs and monitors. While there is an improvement over HD, it's not as visible as HD vs SD, and certainly not as tremendous as marketed.
From there on, is there any point in developing higher resolutions? Your eye wouldn't see a difference unless you're using huge screens (or unless you stand ridiculously close to your screen). Not everyone owns huge screens, and not everyone wants them either -- while large resolutions are nice, a wall-sized screen would make it less comfortable to watch a movie unless you stand far enough away.
Back to our computers. Why do we want more powerful computers? To run more complex games. To render higher quality graphics and audio. To compute more data. These things.
But we may already have reached the point where what we have is enough for the average joe. Our CPUs are fast enough to run very realistic and detailed games, or compute truckloads of data. Our sound cards can compute 7.1 sound with all sorts of effects. Our graphics cards can render our games in HD or even 4K, and as said above, there's little point to higher resolutions (beyond multi-screen setups). And more serious tasks like making spreadsheets or sending emails can as well be done fine on a Pentium II computer.
But that is bad for the system. The system needs you to continually buy their products. How will they trick you in doing so if there's no real evolution anymore?
One way, that you may already know about, is planned obsolescence. There are several ways to enforce that. Calculating your product's mean time before failure, dropping support for it, etc... The end result is the same: you end up buying their new product, and discarding the 'obsolete' one. With all the people doing so, a lot of resources are wasted making much more products than we would need, and a lot of 'obsolete' devices are discarded that are otherwise perfectly good pieces of electronics. And I'm not getting into the pollution this bullshit causes.
Relatedly, you may have noticed how some software requires more and more powerful hardware but doesn't really perform more. This may be caused by a general "who cares if we waste the computer's resources, there are tons of them" mindset inherent to developing with very powerful hardware. Or this may be another way to enforce planned obsolescence: make software less efficient on purpose so it justifies buying more powerful hardware. This may seem borderline conspiracy theory, but when you think about things like planned obsolescence, it's not as crazy as it seems.
Another way they have to keep you buying their products, is fake evolution. Making anything that is new, even if it is useless. A prime example of it would be those smartphones with curved screen borders. I just fail to see what the point of that is, but hey, who cares, nobody has done it before, it's all shiny and new and fancy, so you need to buy it, right?
And don't get me started on Apple. Lately they're advertising their LivePhotos as if they had invented something amazing. It's nothing new, it's called a movie and it has existed since 1895.
Technological progress is stagnating. But is it a bad thing? For ages, our ancestors have lived without things like electricity or cars. As of today, we have made more than enough progress to make our lives comfortable. Do we really need to do more? I don't think so. At this point, any more 'convenience' looks like toys or spoonfeeding -- the direction to go to end up like in Wall-E. Giving up freedom and independence for 'convenience' is a bad idea. You don't want to become a Wall-E human.