An interesting article in the NYT announced the discovery of an early ‘computer’ known to researchers as the Antikythera Mechanism.
The device is composed of mostly bronze and features a series of concentric circular dial like parts with intricately designed minuscule parts and gears.
The piece doesn’t evoke within me the idea of artifact. It looks and feels more like geeky, twenty-first century conceptual art - obsessively intricate and mechanical exuding elements of nanotechnology.
According to researchers, the Antikythera Mechanism was, most likely, used as a navigational and computational device that processed, stored, and displayed complex astronomical data required for long voyages around the Greek peninsula. If this is true then this ’artifact’ from the second century B.C., would be the first handheld computational device we know of. Additionally, the device is a predecessor, among many, of GPS, Google Maps, Mapquest, et al which carry its unmistakable DNA.
An international team of researchers established that the approximate date of the device is 150-100 B.C. They believe based on evidence and tests that the ship carrying the mechanism sank about 65 B.C. near the island of Antikythera, hence its name.
With confusion and dismay, prominent technology historians note the instrument is technologically and mechanically more sophisticated than any known device of its kind - for at least a millennium there is little evidence of any such mechanism duplicating the technical proficiency and usability of the Antikythera Mechanism.
A prominent researcher said “, much of the mind-boggling technological sophistication available in some parts of the Hellenistic and Greco-Roman world was simply not transmitted further” and “…the gear-wheel (and other innovations) had to be reinvented…”
If this is true what does it mean?
Why would it take a millennia for comparable devices to be produced?
Was the Antikythera Mechanism a fluke?
Why didn’t it become a standard to build upon inspiring future innovations?
I’m sure the present-day networked economy and networked media has a lot to do with the proliferation of technologies and the rapid successiveness of innovation, but many ancient technologies have life spans that linearly represent a pattern of reasonably sustained innovation.
For example, Egypt’s and Greece’s Golden Ages exemplify all forms of technological advancement in concert with correlated cultural, socioeconomic, philosophic, and linguistic progressions.
It is presently universally understood that Egypt’s and Greece’s Golden Ages act as the template for the most elevated aspects of modern civilization influencing everything from engineering and mathematics to medicine and design.
So, why is the line from the Antikythera Mechanism to the Blackberry or GPS not so clearly drawn?
Was the Antikythera Mechanism the last remnant of an ancient tech bubble?
Was the Antikythera Mechanism a faddish consumer solution that simply vanished like the offerings of so many Web 1.0 (and surely Web 2.0) companies?
What are the implications for Web 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0, and beyond?
Is technological advancement cyclical in the span of civilizations?
Does technological advancement or inventiveness have definitive stages?
If so, what stage are we in?
Is boom and bust or uncontrollably extreme risk volatility hardwired into the DNA of our specie?
Could the ultimate Bubble be stagnation or redundancy leading to decades or centuries of stifled innovation?
When you look at the Antikythera Mechanism do you feel that we are still in a long cyclical period of stagnation?
What could the Antikythera Mechanism’s inventor(s) produce with the cheap hardware, open sourced software, efficient energy generation, and research tools of today?
What type of prototypes would he have made in respect to handheld devices or even software?
All over the blogosphere everyone is waiting for the bust? I for one am preparing for the boom, because I think there is a long, long road that hasn’t been explored.