Obsoleting past ages

This is the second text in the series Wikimedian age. Previous article is: Wikimedian age is coming.


As I mentioned in the previous post, all following ages may be identified as a part of a previous age. While agriculture became superior toward hunting and gathering as a food source, even people inside of developed agriculture societies — hunted for food. Industrial age brought some much better methods for making food (for example, pâté), but even such new methods were dependent on agriculture. Post-industrial age brought computers, but computers (and robots) are still not capable to mine minerals without miners. Internet age brought Internet, but Internet is not possible without computers. Google age couldn’t come without Internet. It is almost impossible to make one Wikipedia article in reasonable time without using search engines. Probably, it wouldn’t be possible to “live” inside of virtual reality without knowledge gathered on Wikipedia and similar projects.Obsoleting of a basic advantages of some age is not so common. However, one such event already happened and it would be good to analyze what should obsolete other ages.The basic technologies of hunter-gathering societies were hunting and gathering for food. Those technologies were obsolete just with the Green Revolution between late 1940s and 1960s, at the end of industrial age. After this event the majority of humans don’t need to hunt or gather for food.

Even people born in the Post-industrial age at the most of places on the Earth don’t remember famine because of bad weather conditions, we know that even our fathers lived in very hard times when they had to hunt or gather for food. Yes, a lot of people remember famine or poverty, but the most of them are produced by human activities like wars and economic recessions are. However, a lot of war victims would get aid from international organizations instead of hunting or gathering food.

A lot of events in agricultural and industrial ages were giving signs that hunting and gathering methods will have become obsolete. For example, ancient Rome and Athens were trading to make their grain supplies stable. This means that citizens of Rome and Athens (and their slaves, I think so) didn’t have to hunt and gather to survive.

The basic technologies which came with the Agricultural age had been cultivation of land and animals. This is something which we still need, but it is possible that we wouldn’t need that in the not so distant future. When we invent some technology which would be able to make food without cultivation of land (cf. Asimov’s idea of exploitation of yeast in his Robot Series).

The important information is that cultivation of bacteria and yeast are completely possible methods for generating a large scale of organic compounds (and even inorganic). In this moment the problem with bacteria is their high level of mutation which is not possible to control fully, while the most important problem with yeast is a high level of DNA inside of it, which may damage human’s DNA.

Another version of obsoleting agriculture may be based on genetically modified food. While it is very new technology and not tested well, it is possible that some GM products would be proved as safe. The most interesting result of GM food may be possibility that every house may produce enough food for its inhabitants. While this would be a kind of agriculture, it would be a very different kind of agriculture.

The basic technology which came with the Industrial age had been possibility to massively produce goods via mechanical and chemical processing and using (mainly) fossil fuels and electricity as power generators. Today it is not so hard to imagine that molecular assemblers will obsolete industry.

I am not so sure about events which gave signs that the Industrial age may become obsolete. There are a lot of examples of robotizations of some industries, but it was not anything except moving industrial production from workers to robots. Such signs may be found only when it is possible to make clear conclusion that something is not necessary anymore. I am sure that there are industries which became obsolete, but I can’t remember anyone.

The basic technology which came with the Post-industrial age are computers; the basic technology which came with the Internet age is a computer network; with the Google age we got search engine; with the Wikimedian age we are getting free collaborative knowledge in electronic form; and with Virtual Reality age we will get nature-like electronic environment.

I put all of those ages together because it is not so easy to imagine what would make obsolete those things. When I started to think about what would make computers obsolete, I realized that from this point of the time it looks like an impossible task. The same is for computer networks, search engines, Wikipedia and virtual reality.

But, a couple of hours ago, I was thinking what would obsolete Wikipedia. And a conclusion which I made was very abstract: Electronic place for sharing knowledge, which Wikipedia is, may be obsoleted only by some non-electronic place for sharing knowledge. And I realized that I am on the edge of some kind of religious thinking.

That thinking is not religious, of course. It has more common with transhumanism.

Computers wouldn’t be necessary only when humans become able to do what computers do now. Computer networks would become unnecessary only when humans may be connected between each other without them. Electronic place (or network) for sharing knowledge wouldn’t be necessary when people become able to share knowledge between them in more efficient way than it is possible via language.

But, in the sense of my predictions this is far future. Maybe the second half of the 21st century, maybe even the end. And, I am more interested in the near future.


This is the second text in the series Wikimedian age. Texts from this series are:

  1. Wikimedian age is coming
  2. Obsoleting past ages
  3. Changes which Wikimedian age will bring
  4. Contribution to the future of the wiki
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~ by millosh on August 19, 2007.

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