Eras of Material, Energy and Information Production

Article excerpt

Abstract: This study identifies and discusses three types of production: production of aterial goods, energy, and information. The production timeframes with the reference to each production era are about 103, 102 and 101 years. The necessity of education and the associated level of stress in different production eras were analyzed by comparing a typical length of a human life, which is about 101 years, with the timeframes of the production eras and technological progress. It was shown that the era of information production has a very specific feature because unlike the eras of material and energy production, its information production era timeframe is comparable with a typical human lifespan. Finally, a question was posed about the next coming production era and the future of mankind.

Key words: Energy, information, production, goods, energy production, material goods, production eras, significant effort, technical revolution, progress singularity

INTRODUCTION

The times we live in: Let's ask ourselves a question, "What is the most specific characteristic of our time, that of the first quarter of the twenty-first century?" Definitely, there could be many different answers to this question depending on point of view and other factors. This study discusses this question from the angle of production, rate of progress and the length of human life.

The notion of progress, though it looks selfexplanatory, is quite complex and may have a variety of interpretations. Plato (427 BC-347 BC) defined progress as a process of improving "the human condition from a state of nature to higher and higher levels of culture, economic organization and political structure towards an ideal state measuring the progress of society," http://www.oecd.org/document/4/0,3343,en_40033426_ 40037349_41285956_1_1_1_1,00.html." Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC) suggested that "human advancement must not be seen only from an economic perspective" and made a significant distinction between moral and material aspects of life. Francis Bacon (1561-1626) used a pragmatic approach, believing that knowledge should serve humans to improve their well-being. Voltaire (1694-1778) saw progress as not referring to human actions, but to the human mind in terms of arts and sciences.

Measuring mankind's progress is a very challenging task because it is not clear what to measure and how to measure it. Even if we knew what to measure as progress, it would still be unclear how to quantify it and what kind of units to use. However, for the purpose of this analysis we will measure progress in technical revolutions, all kinds of them, big and small. It is obvious that such measurement does not provide a comprehensive view but rather is built on an understanding that any technical revolution brings up additional values to humanity. It is also evident that any technical revolution is based on an achieved level of progress and therefore progress proceeds with acceleration. With this perspective, it would be fair to say that progress evolves exponentially, which concurs with the commonly accepted understanding of progress (Modelski et al., 2008).

THREE DIMENSIONS OF A PRODUCT

Production of material goods: For thousands of years human civilization has been producing material goods. Material goods are tangible material objects that one can see and touch, such as the Great Pyramids, the Great Wall, the Taj Mahal, machines, household items, shoes, cloth, food and other tangible manmade objects. Producing an additional unit of a known material good-which is the same as copying a material good-implies a significant effort and the cost almost equals that of a previously produced original. In other words, variable cost of production of an additional copy of a material good is high.

Production of energy: Energy is another production component. A beautiful Venetian chair, though it is a material good, can produce a certain amount of heat if burned. This is an energy component of production. …