Technological Stagnation

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Into Darkness, Sep 9, 2013.

  1. Robert Maxwell

    Robert Maxwell so far this is a dumb future Premium Member

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    Central control creates more problems than it solves. Allowing cars to go a lot faster makes little sense because of how energy inefficient it is. Your average car tops out its fuel efficiency around 55 miles an hour, and declines precipitously beyond that point. Cars that can easily go 200mph and do it efficiently aren't even on the drawing board today. You'd have to address that before it makes any sense at all to have central control. As gturner said, there's also a much higher accident risk at such speeds. The only place such high speeds even make sense is intercity/interstate highways, in which case you'd be much better served having high-speed trains instead.

    Autonomous self-driving cars exist today and could be a common sight in the next decade or two. Central control of them makes very little sense, though.
     
  2. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Now there is where your technological stagnation comes back into play. Imagine if someone had a great solution to, say, driverless car streams passing through each other at an intersection--but never gets a chance to perfect it due to telecommuting.

    I can't help but wonder how many technological work arounds have been averted due to paradigm shifts.

    Somebody may have a solution for vertical holds on old TV sets that might be useful in other fields of research that will never be discovered due to digital TVs

    Or what if someone found a one page proof of Fermat that worked--Wiles may never have done his longer, more valuable paper.

    Now I get that everything seems like re-capitulation. Engines get more efficient, consumer electronics get more nifty--it seems like it takes more and more effort to get less and less return.

    Now every once in awhile, things will knock me for a loop--like the concept of solid light, small accelerators, etc.
    http://nextbigfuture.com/2013/09/photons-molecules-behave-like-light.html
    http://nextbigfuture.com/2013/09/accelerator-on-nanostructured-chip.html

    The Amplituhedron Crystal
    http://nextbigfuture.com/2013/09/a-jewel-like-geometric-object.html

    Now I am still not bullish on all the nano-rage. At that scale, a dust mote is an asteroid, a dust mite is Godzilla, static cling is felt like neutron star gravity, Brownian motion is like being shelled by artillery, a droplet of water is an ocean of molasses, and heat is death.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2013
  3. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Do any model builders here remember the AMT AMTronic concept vehicle? Pie in the sky, of course. But it seemed within the realm of plausibility back in 1969. After all, if we had just landed men on the moon, anything was possible!
     
  4. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Makes a good shuttle model with modifications. Forbin did several IIRC.
     
  5. DarthTom

    DarthTom Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Some central control makes sense. There is an interesting new[er] GPS driving app for Apple and Android devices called, 'Waze.'

    Waze using input from multiplle different drivers all logged in calculates not necessarily the shortest route to your destination but rather the fastest using current/realtime traffic conditions.

    In a similar effort to control traffc congestion, the city of Los Angeles completely sychronized all of its traffic signals - all 4,400 of them - in theory permitting someone to drive from dwtn Los Angeles to Santa Monioca without ever stopping.

    LA synchronizes traffic signals

    In an ideal world any driving assist or completely driverless car would also interface with some additional technology to optimize the route to drive, minimizing traffic.

    Wouldn't some global coordination have to exist to make this feasible?
     
  6. Robert Maxwell

    Robert Maxwell so far this is a dumb future Premium Member

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    That's not "central control," that's still a car (computer) making decisions based on the information available. The kind of central control being discussed is one in which every vehicle's speed and movement is regulated by an outside source. That just doesn't make much sense because it doesn't offer any significant advantages to contemporary driving parameters.
     
  7. DarthTom

    DarthTom Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    But lets say in morning traffic we have 5,000 people all going to around the same area about the same time. In theory using a centralized routing system some of the cars would take route X whereas another gorup of the cars would take route Y to maximize road efficiency and reduce travel times.

    Some type of centralized coordination would have to occur to make this happen?
     
  8. Robert Maxwell

    Robert Maxwell so far this is a dumb future Premium Member

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    Humans are notoriously poor at centrally planning those kinds of systems. Computer science tells us that a self-organizing network of independent agents (that is, individual cars that are aware of their surroundings and even traffic data but not under central control) will often solve routing problems far more efficiently than a central system could.

    The Internet provides plenty of real-world relevance here. Routing is decentralized and yet quite efficient and effective.
     
  9. DarthTom

    DarthTom Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Privacy rights people wouldn't find such a system acceptable regardless. It's just interesting conversation.

    On a related topic of centralized computing it is interesting that some police departments are using computer predictive modeling to help identify where crime may occur and police are being dispatched lowering crime rates.

    Minority Report type crime predication
     
  10. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    We could of course say restricted automated cars to High Speed Roads i.e. Motorways, whilst letting the driver control the car when its not on the Motorway.

    Of course should a driver faile to indicate that they are ready to take control the autmated systems pulss the car over until such time as the driver indicates that they are ready to assume control.
     
  11. DarthTom

    DarthTom Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    That's essentially what the new Mercedes coming out this fall can already do which I posted earlier in this conversation. In fact, not only can it operate the car, stay in its lane and using radar pace the car from the one ahead on a freeway it also can drive itself in a traffic jam - breaking the car from the one ahead.

    You just need $92,000 to get one today.
     
  12. farmkid

    farmkid Commodore Commodore

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    I agree that it causes more problems than it solves; that was kind of my point. Self-driving cars are touted as bringing to the table huge improvements in speed, efficiency, and safety. My point was that in order to really see the huge increases people talk about the cars can't be autonomous; they must be coordinated in some way. But, doing so introduces some other serious, probably deal-killing, issues.

    Regarding speed, the primary reason that fuel efficiency drops off at higher speeds is because of increases in air resistance. If the cars were traveling at high speeds and very close to one another, that air resistance would be dramatically reduced, and therefore the efficiency penalties for high speeds would be similarly reduced.
     
  13. Lindley

    Lindley Moderator with a Soul Moderator

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    I'd like to point out an inconsistency in your approach here.

    In the first quote, you dismiss technological changes as irrelevant because they didn't really affect the way we do things.

    In the second, you dismiss changes in the way we do things as irrelevant because they didn't require significant technological changes, just a different application of existing technology.

    Both are advancements. If you think one or the other kind of change is more important, that's fine; but if you think neither is important, than what, prey tell, would impress you?
     
  14. Tiberius

    Tiberius Commodore Commodore

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    You couldn't be more wrong. The primary reason people use their own cars instead of public transportation is the convenience. You aren't waiting for a bus or depending on a timetable, and you don't have to worry about having a long walk at the other end. A person driving a car gets to go straight to their destination whenever they want. You can't do this with public transport. That is why people have their own cars, and it can easily be done with self driving cars.

    And no one is suggesting that future self driving cars will completely lack the ability to be manually driven by a person. There are plenty of cases where this might be required. You'll still be able to drive for fun.
     
  15. Edit_XYZ

    Edit_XYZ Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    No inconsistency, Lindley:
    First quote: I dismiss the incremental technological improvements that occurred because they didn't advance WHAT the technology can do to any substantial degree.
    Second quote: I dismiss the cosmetic changes that occurred because they don't/can't advance WHAT the technology can do.

    PS:
    What would impress me?
    A car that can travel 1000 km for 1 $;
    LEO cheap enough to make orbital tourism/asteroid mining/etc
    feasible, leading to anyone who wants to make a few billions $ and has the now relatively modest means needed to kickstart a business in space flocking to the new market;
    etc.
    These would be actual substantial technological improvement; as opposed to the cosmetic changes or the shaving off a few percentages in efficiencies we recite in order to convince ourselves that some fields are advancing.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2013
  16. Robert Maxwell

    Robert Maxwell so far this is a dumb future Premium Member

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    Okay, so you describe a car that is essentially magical, because there is no known source of energy that can propel a 1-ton vehicle 1000 kilometers for a buck. Then you say cheap access to LEO would be somehow revolutionary, when in fact it would just be a result of competition and technical refinement. I'll note that private space companies actually are driving down costs, but they haven't invented any revolutionary tech to do it, they just took the best of what we already had and refined it and used it a bit differently. The reason there's not some enormous boom in space travel is that there is no good reason to go there for most people.

    Also, you don't mine asteroids in LEO.

    At this point I'm content to declare that you simply have no idea what you are talking about, and you don't even understand this topic enough to offer examples of revolutionary technologies. You've been given plenty of examples of technological advancements, some of which are revolutionary--strides in materials technology, biotech, and computing are at least as important as anything we did prior to the '70s. You've just staked out this bizarre position and refuse to back away from it, even though you are completely wrong.

    Maybe other people want to keep arguing in circles with you, but I won't. I'm done with this.
     
  17. Edit_XYZ

    Edit_XYZ Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Really?
    If the energy is cheap enough, it can most definitely propel a vehicle 1000 km for 1 $.
    You don't need a perpetuum mobile for that, TheRedPill (nuclear energy doing this - WITHOUT installing a reactor in every car, that is - is quite consistent with physics). You just need energy cheap enough.

    Technological advancement is defined by what you can do with the technology. Reaching LEO cheaply IS a revolutionary advancement vis-a-vis what you can do with technology - compared with what we can do today.

    Once you're in LEO, you're half-way to anywhere - including asteroids. The harder half, that is.

    And, once one can get billions in profits from space, the reason for most people to go there will materialise - unsurprisingly.

    At this point it's obvious that you are the one having no idea even about what I argued in this thread, TheRedPill:
    TRANSPORTATION technology stagnated, as I repeatedly said.
    I even expressly said - in this thread, no less - that computing, etc are advancing nicely.

    But you don't let that stop you from arguing against a straw-man and coming with unsupported dictums.

    If the straw-men/dictums you presented here are your arguments - well, it's obvious you barely even addressed my points, let alone prove them in error.
     
  18. Lindley

    Lindley Moderator with a Soul Moderator

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    I recently read a David Weber book called Out of the Dark. Not his strongest effort, but it had a very cool genre-bending twist at the end which I won't spoil.

    Anyway, the point he was making throughout the book is that technological advancement isn't a strict weak ordering. In the book, the underlying technology of the alien race was far in advance of ours; they had FTL travel and whatnot. But our technology was much better applied since we had more experience with warfare than they did. For instance, tanks with energy cannons don't mean squat if your armor isn't able to fend off a penetrator round from an Abrams, and heavy lift shuttles to orbit aren't useful if they can't detect an incoming F-22. In the book, the only reason the aliens were able to get a foothold at all is because of their widespread use of orbital kinetic energy weapons.

    The point is simply that while revolutionary technological changes are very cool, you shouldn't be so quick to dismiss incremental improvements or new ways of applying existing technologies. Such things can have very important impacts on our lives and culture.
     
  19. Edit_XYZ

    Edit_XYZ Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    We are talking bout technology.
    The most important criteria for judging it are 'does it work?' and 'what can it do?'. NOT 'how flashy it is?' or 'how many quantum mechanical tricks does a device incorporates?':

    If incremental advances will get us cheaply to LEO, then, at that point, these advances will transmute into a technological revolution.
    If whatever newly discovered physical principle has little application in the technological field, then this principle does NOT constitute a technological revolution.

    As for incremental technological advances - I merely pointed out how only slow, snail-paced advancements (nothing revolutionary) have been taking place in transportation since the seventies. This remains the case, regardless of whether some like this fact or not.
     
  20. gturner

    gturner Admiral

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    The drag reduction isn't that great. Bump drafting, where the rear car actually pushes the front car, can gain you maybe 15 mph at NASCAR speeds, the equivalent of perhaps 50 to 100 HP per vehicle. But then to go that fast they need 750 HP engines and get about 5 mpg. Drafting might conceivably get the mileage up to 6 or 7 mpg. If the cars were as streamlined as a Prius that might drop to 300 HP or so and get maybe 10 to 15 mpg.

    And of course to travel at those speeds with even marginal safety we'd all have to put on our Nomex fire suits, helmets, and crawl into the roll cage through the window because our doors would be welded shut.