Second and Third Order Consequences

Tech and where we are going

Second and Third Order Consequences

Technology plays a huge role in my life, and probably yours too. We sometimes think of technology as only being things that are digital, like your phone or laptop, but actually everything that you associate with civilization; farming, irrigation, and transport is technology. So it is probably worth having a brief think about patterns of technological change in the past and what it might look like in the future.

This history of technology follows the history of science like a tail on a cat. In the early days of humanity we discovered fire, thousands of years later we invented steam engines and other kinds of combustion engines. In the mid 1700's Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity and a hundred years later the first electric motor was created. The turn of the 20th century was rife with new branches of Physics that probed the internal workings of atoms, 50 years later we had our first nuclear reactor. The general pattern here is obvious - the time from breakthroughs in fundamental science to transformational technology is shrinking. It ebbs and flows over time but you can't mistake the trend.

different fields of science/technology are different colours


You've already heard of the revolution in finance, just by a funny name - Ethereum. Ethereum is to finance what the iPhone was to personal computing. A revolutionary platform atop of which the next largest and most influential companies will be born. TikTok, Facebook, Instagram etc are all dependent upon everyone having their own little computer in their pocket. When the iPhone came out in 2007 it would have been difficult to look ahead and describe what apps would be popular and which wouldn't, but there was no question they would be on your phone. Looking ahead today, it's difficult to say what the future of finance will look like but it's a fairly safe bet that it will be built on Ethereum. The time from new idea to implementation on Ethereum is staggeringly small - and scarcely comprehensible when compared to innovation in legacy money.

What the average crypto conversation looks like today.

The space is full of kids spending their life savings in the hopes of a "lambo" but all of this misses the point of what this technology can do for the world. Imagine you are a young African or live in a country like Venezuela. The new options you have to store and generate wealth are a life line. A state-agnostic way to build something from nothing. This never existed until recently and the barrier to entry is just a internet connection and curiosity.

Medicine and Biotech

Huge advances in types of therapies and how these therapies are tested have occurred in the last decade. You obviously know about the mRNA vaccine for COVID which represents a triumph in using new RNA based methods of affecting biology. There a lot of these new RNA based methods of treating disease each with varying levels of success so far but the pace of innovation in this space bodes well for people with rare genetic conditions around the world. The promise is that these therapies will quasi-computationally affect the way disease processes work in your body to not just treat symptoms but fundamentally reverse the disease. Current targets are diseases with simple and well understood processes that cause them but looking forward 10 or 20 years researchers believe they can affect more complicated diseases like Diabetes, Cardiovascular disease and even aging. The craziest bit about these therapies is that they work by facilitating your body to modulate its own biology, not by affecting it themselves. That's a really powerful idea that could decrease the side effects of these drugs and make it easier to test them, shortening the time from scientific discovery to life changing therapy.

Another field at the confluence of these advances is synthetic biology. Organoids are small 3D models of organs made of real human cells. They are made by culturing human stem cells in a dish and have been shown to have similar properties to the real organ in you and me. These models are person specific - you can make a little Arjun-Heart-Organoid and test drugs on it in a test tube. If the organoid has a poor reaction to the drug then the real me will likely not be too fond of it either. This technology is rapidly evolving and the potential to make fully functional "multiorgan-oids" stands to change the way drugs are tested preclinically and how patients are prescribed them.

3D brain organoid, diffrent neurons types are in diffrent colours.

If you couldn't tell from my writing, I'm extremely optimistic about technological innovation, and I havent even touched on AI and transport here. I honestly believe that it's the only thing that can guarantee our future. Mother Earth only has a certain amount of stuff on it. Technology is our way of using less of that stuff and using what we have to in smarter, more efficient ways. It's a double edged sword though. Technology can also be used to make things like weapons, surveillance states and apps that soak your attention up. It's up to us to steer the great technological ship towards lands of prosperity and healthy abundance for all.