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Friday, February 17, 2012

This Nurhachi is a real small guy...

In the opening scene of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indy saunters into Club Obi Wan, a swanky dinner club in 1935-era Shanghai. In the pocket of his white dinner jacket is a jade funerary urn containing the remains of Nurhachi, first emperor of the Qing dynasty...or so the story goes.

     Good things in small packages?

So what is our fixation with small things?

Well, back in 1951 the first commercially available, general purpose computer, the Ferranti 1, was delivered.

                           Can I fit this in my backpack?

Sixty-odd years later, we have the iconic iPhone...

        We don't need no stinkin' backpack!

I think this is a classic case of device creep. Technically, device creep refers to a situation where we need (or believe we need) more and more devices. In this case, the creep is the insatiable desire for smaller and smaller devices. We have migrated from building-sized devices to handheld devices in what is, from a cosmic time perspective, the blink of an eye.

What other amazing things have we humans accomplished in that time span? Landing a man on the moon comes to mind. Of course, not everything is getting smaller:

                                              Elevation, Holmes...

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is a half-mile of modern skyscraper that is the tallest building in the world. For now.

How many Nurhachi's could we put in the Burj Khalifa? How many iPhones? We could even fit a fair number of Ferrantis in there as well. Not that we'd want to. No, we want things smaller, faster, cooler than they were before.

So what's next?

With the push for development of nanorobotics, is there any limit to what we can nano-size? Will the next generation's apps appear as icons on our retina, activated by the blink of an eye? Will all of the electronics and transmission capability of today's smart phones be embedded inside our bodies in the future?

The Internet is awash with fanciful stories of our ever-downsizing device creep. In fact, if some of the more technical sites are to be believed, eventually our device creep will lead to a future without devices. How ironic.

We have always had devices; from the first wheel, to the first radio, to our precious iPhones. Are we ready to step into the next frontier? Are we ready to put aside our devices?

Honey, I'm hearing noises in my head.

What do you think they are?


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