Many people think that science will eventually be able to explain everything that happens in nature, and that technology will be able to reproduce it. Perhaps that is so, but even then, that day lies far into the future. Probably a more likely scenario is that the further science and technology advance, the deeper the mysteries of the world will grow. Even with topics that we believe science has solved for good, when you take a closer look, you'll find that plenty of problems have slipped through the cracks or been swept under the carpet. Furthermore, these are often the issues that are closest to us and most important in our daily lives. Take hunches or intuitions or premonitions, for example. They may have rational-sounding explanations, but our gut feelings tell us something is not quite right after all. Such examples are not at all uncommon. When you think about it, there are lots of things that modern civilization has forgotten all about. Maybe the time has come to stop for a moment and try to remember. The seeds of forthcoming science and technology are impatiently waiting to be discovered among the things we have left behind.
Depiction of battle carriage from around 2500 BCE. The wheel itself was the latest weapon.
16th century sailing ship. The development of navigation techniques transformed both the flow of goods and the ways of the world.
Experiment with unmanned hot air balloon by the Montgolfier brothers in 1783. The first step toward air transportation.
Walking robot. Upright bipedal locomotion, which used to be one of the major characteristics of humankind, is gradually being handed over to machines.
Suit for work in space on the cover of Astounding Stories, an SF magazine popular in the early 20th century.
We are reluctant to waste energy and resources. Nevertheless, huge quantities of food are reportedly discarded in Japan. Surely nobody would object to eliminating such waste. A few years ago the Japanese phrase “mottainai” became a global buzzword. Many new techniques are being developed to reduce waste. However, determining what is wasteful is often surprisingly difficult. Many practices that are currently considered wasteful and become the target for increased productivity or laborsaving are actually economic and time-related issues. Whether they really are useless in themselves is a more subtle question.
Tasks that may seem like a waste of time were formerly often part of the training. Sometimes the seemingly pointless can add flexibility and color. And what’s the point of saving time, if all you do with it is waste it again by playing games on your phone? In any case, the elimination of wasted energy, resources, time and space is likely to continue. Meanwhile, another type of waste is increasing explosively: the waste called information.