Difference or Convergence?

From the joining of the carriage and its drive train, the audio player and its speakers, to the telephone and its dial-pad, the trend has been for us to stick together pieces of technology for greater convenience. But is this convergence trend a hard rule? Will it continue, and if so, at what rate?

When it comes to gadgets, should we do more with less?

We tend to let many techno-marvels pass by without notice. Maybe we dismiss gadgets as novelty items because they don’t improve our lives enough or are awkward to use. They may target a small group of specialists (like ruggedized wearable computers), or have a specific medical niche (like portable ultrasounds), but does that mean the more technical modern gizmos are low-value to the rest of us? What if these technologies are defining a new age while we’re distracted by mainstream gadgets and our smartphone screens?

We live in exciting times defined by technological advances: 3D printing, vaping, e-paper, health bands, dual screen smartphones and wireless video streaming all represent the eruption of the futuristic and new into the everyday. Ground-breaking research into smaller microchip and memory processes, carbon nanotubes and new storage methods could mean that tomorrow’s new gadgets are beyond our ability to imagine, let alone think of as typical.

So what’s coming next? Will we continue to see the same class of devices and gadgets, improving slightly each year, or are we going to see whole new types of tech woven into our lives?

Think of the following emerging technologies:

  • Smartphones with low-power secondary displays using e-paper
  • Solid state disks widely replacing mechanical disk drives
  • Virtual reality re-shaping games and mobile device navigation alike
  • Health devices connected to our phones and the internet
  • Self-driving cars

All of these are enabling or demonstrating a convergence of different technologies with each other and with our lives. Tech is becoming invisible even as it becomes more critical to our lives. There is no sign of the rocket packs and foil suits, the personal robot slaves imagined by previous generations. And yet, the future is happening. And regardless of which trends stick or fizzle out, one thing is for sure: we’re all going to be using more and more of the same interconnected devices and systems. Will this make us more alike, or our lives more uniform? That is a whole different question, maybe one we’ll explore in a future edition.