The GLOCAL Experience is excited to announce the launch of a new series called GLOCAL Technologies! Each month, we will examine a different technological invention: What is it? What problems does it aim to solve? How can we utilize it and benefit from it? Some articles will be written by current GLOCAL students, but we will also invite experts or GLOCAL alumni to share their knowledge on certain technologies!
This monthly series is initiated by Hideki Yoshikawa from GLOCAL V, who has written a brief introduction to kickstart the project. Get ready to deep dive into the latest technology trends with our monthly series, GLOCAL Technologies!
Technology is exciting! There is no doubt that the PCs and smartphones from which you are reading this blog are the crystallisation of modern technology, but if you think about what exactly that technology is, you will find yourself wandering into deeper questions with no single definitive answer.
The other day I was chatting with some friends about PCs. As if testing our intelligence, one of them said; “Is a PC really more awesome than a typewriter?” According to his interpretation, the essence of a PC is technology as a way to write letters mechanically, uniformly, and more efficiently, rather than by hand. So, he said, typewriters and PCs are similar technologies.
Then, one of our teachers, who has lived a few decades longer than us, asked, “Have you ever used a word processor?” He started reminiscing. When he was a student, there were no PCs yet and he was writing on one of the first word processors. But it was a stressful technology, he said. There was no memory, so the text data was lost when the power was turned off, the delete button was non-existent, it was impossible to tell if the text he had written was printed correctly and, of course, there was no internet connection. The PC has solved these problems, he said. (Actually, later, word processors have solved these problems.)
In other words, the evolution of text-input products has combined text-input technology with other technologies that solve many other problems. In general, technological evolution ultimately occurs through the discovery of higher-order scientific technologies and the combination of existing technologies to enable a single machine to solve more problems. Higher-order scientific technology is the discovery of scientific facts that expand the frontiers of science. For example, the discovery that a targeted protein can be synthesised by incorporating a plasmid into a cell that is structured to express specific genes (biotechnology). On the other hand, the combination of existing technologies means reinterpreting already-known scientific technologies into a new package of them. For example, the tuk-tuks seen on the streets of South East Asia are a combination of two technologies (or more, depending on how they are interpreted): rickshaws and motorbikes. By expanding the technological frontier and combining technologies, new goods and services can be created to make our life more convenient.
This is why basic science alone does not cause technological evolution; entrepreneurs’ ideas are crucially important. Innovators identify problems that people usually have (or may not even be aware of) and combine them with the best set of technologies, either from among the technologies available now or in the search for new science. In this way, new technologies are created and problems that people have been suffering from are to be solved. Sensitively imagining social problems, having the will to solve them, and finding the best combination from a multitude of technologies is truly an art.
That is why technology is exciting. When a new technology comes along, we are amazed at the imaginative engine of the innovator, wondering why we did not realise this problem before. We wonder why this kind of technology has never existed before. We are heartened to guess how long it took to develop such a beautiful piece of technology.
In this tech-blog series, we plan to invite people who are experts in a particular technology to talk about what makes it so fascinating. Together, we will consider what problem the technology was designed to solve in society, why it was chosen as the best solution, and how the various technologies combine to form a single product.
Through this blog series, I would like to spread the excitement of technology!