Sunday, December 21, 2003

Thinking About the Future: The Speed of Technology

My good friend Tony was in town this week (yay!) and we touched lightly on the topic of how the complexity of certain problems (e.g. the cure for cancer) increases the closer we seem to get to solving them.

Tony mentioned that the rate of change of technology may be such that it would nullify, to great effect, this complexity and bring answers to these questions within reach much faster that we might think.

I wonder, however: Are the problems that we are trying to solve, those that we think will have a significant impact on the world, so much more complicated in the answering as to require the increasing pace of technology to provide us hope of answering them any time soon?

After all, if a question merely depended on technology, odds are that we would have solved it by now. This doesn't negate the fact that a certain amount of insight is required in solving problems of this sort, and that technology can speed the path from insight to actual. Merely that, to the extent that solutions depend merely on processor speed or some such, we are left with only those problems that are still hard to solve.