Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Q: What’s the meaning of molecular computing?

A: It may mean the end of the notion that in the ideal economy there is full employment.

Hewlett Packard announced yesterday that it had made a molecular scale device that is putting the company on the way to creating a new generation of computer chips. The idea of molecular computing has been tossed around for a while. Everybody from Ray Kurzweil to Michael Crichton has toyed with the idea. The need for a new type of computer processor has been evident for some time. Within the next few years, using current technology, we will reach the limit of the number of micoscopic transistors that can be packed into a computer chip. A processor chip based on molecular computing will overcome this limit, opening the door for better computers, doing more things, more powerfully and doing away with more jobs.

Let’s take a walk down Memory Lane:

The mainframe computer did away with the need to have all those clerks in all those rooms at the IRS, Social Security, Big Banks and Insurance Companies keeping hand written track of its financial records. Oh yeah, no more need for a human being to keep track of flight reservation records either.

The midrange computer did away with the need for small banks and mid-sized businesses to use humans as computational record keeprs. Extend tthe midrange computer terminal into an ATM and you get rid of a lot of bank tellers too.

The PC and microprocessor did away with a lot of assembly line workers, telephone operators, secretaries, (turned them into Administrative Assistants), bookkeepers, inventory managers, typesetters, over priced record producers and a whole lot more bank tellers; and now with automatic check-in at airline terminals say goodbye to ticket agents too.

So where did all these people go? Some of them went to the bathroom 8 hours a day, which is possible in the anonymous world of Big Corporate Business. Others had their job transformed-- more thinking and less grunt. Some retired. Many ended up in sales or on eBay, now that we are becoming a nation of salesmen and not manufacturers. Some became gamblers taking whatever they had in their 401K, signing up to eTrade at a $5 a trade and hoping for the best. And, some went on the dole... I mean unemployment.

I don’t have a problem with the dole. From my observation, it’s been a way of life in Europe for a while.

So here is what I think. I am not losing sleep about computer intelligence and brawn taking over all forms of labor that create economic value. I think that at some point it’s going to happen anyway, if it hasn’t happened yet. No biggie. If I did not have to labor for money, I would labor for love. Yet, sadly, it seems to me that most people in this culture have no idea what do with their time on the planet other than watch TV, hang out online, play video games, try to have sex with or without God's endorsement, order out, get drunk a few times a month, drive oversized automobiles and go to Las Vegas every once and a while to do more of the same. And, that's while being gainfully employed.

Jeepers, what would they do if having a job was not a necessity?

As Picard said from the benevolently militaristic world of Star Trek, the Next Generation:

"We used to be concerned with material gain, now what we want is to become better human beings."


Blogger Hermann Klinke said...

I am going to do the same thing as Rory. Code (for money) until I have enough money to code for fun and work on my own projects. If that gets boring (which I highly doubt) or I stop for some other reason, I'll do a journey around the world to explore other countries. I just don't understand people wasting their life with watching dumb TV Shows...

10:44 PM  

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