Thursday, 2 April 2009

The pinnacle of human achievement

The iPhone is a marvellous thing, the touchscreen wifi smartphone, that is so ubiquitous that unemployed folk can own them, that is the pinnacle of human technological achievement.

But is it right?

I was talking to a brand manager chap the other night, its generally agreed that the world economy has been mismanaged for the past fifteen or twenty years. The world has appeared to be a lot wealthier than it is, mortgages offered to folk who can't afford them, cheap money borrowed from the future.

It is my conceit that without with mismanagement, we would not have the ubiquitous touchscreen wifi smartphone today. We wouldn't have such technological innovation for another decade at least.

The brand manager disagreed, he said "Who knows? Someone else may have developed the ubiquitous touchscreen wifi smartphone,". It doesn't need a world of such apparent wealth to make these things.

Brand Manager, my arse. I'm an engineer, I'll going to pull rank here.

There's this plot device thing in films, most recently in Transformers but also Men In Black, where so alien race has crash landed on earth and all modern technology has been "reverse-engineered". Microwaves, computers, the internet, all reverse engineered.

Reverse engineering is difficult and the whole concept is a great disservice to engineers slaving away in R&D departments continuously improving and developing new things and stuff. And it costs money. It depends on support and management and companies continously investing.

To get that touchscreen wifi smartphone it takes largest technolgie companies, hundreds of them all competing making each module each function, better thantheir competitors and better than the previous version.

To get that touchscreen wifi smartphone you need enough false money and easy credit floating around to enable a culture of tens of millions of people replacing their phone every eighteen months, upgrading to better and faster models.

It doesn't just happen.

And that, your honour, is my case in support of the financial mismanagement of the past fifteen to twenty years.

If the world economy had been managed prudentially we would right now still be ten years away from ubiquitous touchscreen wifi smartphones.

Was it worth it?

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

I tried having a similar discussion with a friend who works for the council, but rather than go with the economic mismanagement thing, they suggested "What's best for the human race and what's best for the planet."

We had a screaming row when I pointed out that these were two different things and you can't have both. You can have a trade off between the best thing for the human race and the best thing for the planet, but this trade off point will be a long way from having ubiquitous touchscreen wifi smartphones and will probably involve more people living in 'poverty'.


  1. The irony is that you used your BlackBerry to send this post!

  2. the pinnacle of all human achievement is a phone you can operate by prodding the screen with your finger? jesus wept.

  3. Anonymous...
    Its not just a phone, its a wee computery internet thing that more powerful that my old laptop computer.

    But well, I accept that it not be the pinnacle of human achievement. But in terms of human technological achievement of the past fifteen to twenty years, is there anything better? Not the Space Shuttle or Concord, or the internet, these things are all far older, ad the former two have a habit of exploding and killing lots of people.

    If you have any suggestions, I'm all ears.