During my recent junket to the UK, one of my last adventures for 2013, I was struck by this thought, as well as by a car: With all the advances in technology as of late, and promises made by technologists when I was a child, why am I lying ass-backward in a puddle after being hit by the latest model Audi in an unlit car park?
Granted, I was wearing black and the driver of this Audi had not opted for the optional proximity sensors on purchase, but still, in retrospect, shouldn’t we have solved this problem by now? Stupid drivers hitting pedestrians at slow speeds! What about all the other problems still unsolved today: Cancer, hunger, and the fact that when I change my SIM card in my phone, I can no longer make calls until I reboot the device a few times?
Well, after almost 60 years on this planet, during a time when technology has made leaps and bounds well over my head on many occasions, I have decided it’s just a matter of simple economics and capitalist priorities; those who have money have the best tech, and companies that make tech, want to make more money than any one company deserves to have.
Take for example, this new year’s advance in desktop computing. Apple users have long awaited a new desktop to replace the aging Mac Pro, first introduced in 2006, and now updated in 2014 to look pretty much like a small office trashcan. This second generation Apple workstation / server sports a processor with up to 8 cores (most mortals have 2 today), and is expandable with up to 64GB of memory (the most I’ve ever used on any computer is 16, what about you?). In addition to the Mac Pro’s post-space age design, the price for this fully tech-ed out desktop is an astronomical 8000 USD.
On a smaller scale is the amazing MacBook Air, on which today I am writing to you from, and was a laptop purchased just a few months ago for over 1700 USD. 2014 will bring a better, brighter display to this incredible sliver of aluminum and tech, but these prices demand much consternation to the road warrior on the go – I got to keep warrior-ing just to afford the payments!
On the medical front however, I am impressed by advances in tech for medics and other practitioners of the medical arts. Fearing that my recent contact with that 2013 Audi front bumper had jogged something loose internally, I got a full medical check-up while in jolly old England, to include my eyeballs, where one had suffered a torn retina last year. The imaging system used took a picture of the backside of the inside of my eyeball, and instantly displayed a picture of my optic nerve, capillaries, and previous laser surgeries. I even could have gotten that snap on my flash drive, if only I had not been too relieved over my good eye health to ask.
Other toys for medical boys that I noticed while at the clinic, was something right out of Star Trek, ala 1967. The Scanadu is an oval disk about two inches wide and a half-inch thick, and when held to the forehead, can measure oxygen intake and your heart rate all at the same time. Other sensors in development I’m told, will measure temperature, blood pressure and other bodily functions, just like Dr. McCoy did with his Federation issued Tricorder on planet M113 in the year 2266. Only in 2014, you might even be able to own this device yourself, as it’s expected to sell to the public for less than 500 USD, an iPhone app included.
"Those who have money have the best tech, and companies that make tech, want to make more money than any one company deserves to have"
And while we have not figured out how to cure cancer, I’m told that the most exciting cancer advance for 2014 is in Genomics, where tumors can now be analyzed genetically, and treatments predicted for success. So for example, a woman diagnosed with breast cancer can be screened for chemotherapy and hormonal therapy, or just hormonal therapy alone, thus saving her from the chemo ordeal if not needed. Yet don’t expect this and other 2014 medical advances at Bir Hospital any time soon, as they are expensive and restricted to the most developed countries (still).
However, on a lighter note, advances in game tech brings us new consoles to replace our aging Xboxes and PS3s. The Xbox One and the PS4 were selling in London this Xmas season for just over 400 GBP, but for the life of me I could not tell the difference between Call of Duty gameplay on the new console, vs. the old one back home. The retail clerk assured me however, that the graphics were “better.”
That brings me to the point where I start screaming. Is a curved phone better than a flat phone (look for the Samsung S5 in 2014)? Is a curved 105-inch flat screen TV better than my “old” 55-inch flat one, that I just bought at the Sony Centre in Durbar Marg? Undoubtedly yes, but I surely can’t afford that on a writer’s salary - or perhaps any other type of salary I might aspire to. And more relevant in my banged up situation, are proximity sensors ever coming to automobiles in Nepal, which may prevent countless dog deaths and costly fender benders?
The answer my friends is no, not in 2014. I predict that the new tech we will see in 2014 is either trivial, like an update to your currently fine mobile, or extraordinary, like automotive sensors that prevent drivers from killing writers in parking lots, but only available in a car that would cost over 100,000 USD here at home. After all, the world of tech is simple economics and pure capitalism: If you got bucks, you can have it, and if you don’t, you can’t.
Jiggy Gaton is a quirky kinda techo-expat happily living in the Kathmandu Valley with his Nepali family and friends, and hopes the next time he visits England, that cars there are all equipped with sensors that prevent them from running him over.