Technology for Knowledge in Past 2 Decades

By Xah Lee. Date:

There are a few technology i dreamed of when i was a teen, or anywhere from 30 to 10 years ago. Some of them have become realities today.

  1. Encyclopedia at your fingertips. Find out any factual info in matter of minutes.
  2. A world of photos of any place, on demand. That is, view collections of photos of any place on earth.
  3. A virtual 3D model of any building in the world. In particular, great buildings such as famous architectures, cathedrals, castles, temples, or even skyscrapers of whole city. (this aspect we often see in scifi movies. 10 years ago, in movies, it shows the wire-frame of buildings or whole city. Today's movies, upgraded such scene into a interactive holograph (For example, latest Iron Man movie showed such).)
  4. Any video (including film, TV program), ever recorded, at your fingertip on demand.

Most of these have become realities today.

Encyclopedia at Your Fingertip

Wikipedia is encyclopedia at your fingertip, and more generally, the internet. Even just 10 years ago, any fact, even trivial ones, such as list of US presidents, means a trip to the library. To answer any trivial question, it means plan and drive/walk to a local library, then “do research”. It often means that to answer a trivial fact takes at least half a day. Today, the answer comes within 5 seconds, from the multi-purpose phone device in your pocket.

See also:

Photos of Anywhere on Demand

Google Earth and Google Map is the realization of world's photos at your fingertip. For any place on earth that's well populated, you can immediately see thousands photos of it. The streets, the people, within few seconds.

Mont Saint-Michel abbey Google Earth
A 3D-model of the Mont Saint-Michel abbey in Google Earth. Those little icons are photos.

3D Models of Any Place on Earth

For 3D models, Google Earth does some degrees of it. And Second Life also some degree. In Google Earth, all major cities have 3D models, albeit a very sketchy one. You can view any big city or building from any angle. Although currently the models are very rough sketches, basically just blocks of rectangles or spheres that lets you get a sense of the building's shape.

Mont Saint Michel 002
A 3D-model of Mont Saint-Michel abbey in Second Life that you can walk-thru. [see Mont Saint-Michel in Second Life]

in Second Life, and in general 3D games, there you have the full detailed 3D models. With gaming software, you can actually walk-thru in it. Suppose it's a cathedral. You can walk into the building, walk thru any of its doors, corridors, hallways, basements, as if in real-life. You can also view the whole thing from any angle or position, as if you are a bird. Though, the problem with Second Life or 3D game here is that only a handful cities or real life buildings are available. Vast majority of scenes and buildings in 3D game are fictional, great by itself, but has no educational values in history or culture or real architecture.

The good aspect of Google Earth here is that ANY major city or building are available. The good aspects of 3D games is that you have detailed, walk-thru model, but just a handful of them.

Detailed walk-thru models as in gaming for all buildings and terrains of the world is probably coming, perhaps in 10 years?

See also:

Any Video on Demand

As for any video on demand, it has not happened yet. Today, you can view most popularly demanded items, such as movies (but usually with payment). However, if you want to see for example Olympics games of a particular year that's been recoded on video, good luck! Or, any news broadcast program of a particular year and day, it's nearly impossible, paid or not. I suppose, they will eventually come. 5 years? 10?