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Science Theory Stagnation (3.1)

 ·  ☕ 15 min read

3 The shadow outside the paradigm spring dream

The achievements of more than 200 years of industrial civilization have filled the public with confidence, and technological optimism has penetrated every part of society. Even scientific and technological workers, most of them have an attitude of “turning a blind eye” to the next level of technology that lies in front of them. Many years ago, I occasionally talked about the possibility that technology might be in big trouble in an academic forum. Many people criticized that at the end of the 19th century, many people said that the theoretical building of physics has been constructed, and only needs to be repaired in the future. However, the theory of relativity and quantum theory emerged in the 20th century, which greatly advanced human understanding of the world. Isn’t it the same as the situation in the past when we say “the stagnation of the technological revolution”?

But after nearly 10 years of thinking and discussion, I personally think that the situation this time is different from the last time. The last time I thought that the scientific theory was perfect, and it will no longer need to be perfected in the future. But this time the situation is that even if mankind has more and more theories in science and understands more and more about the world, knowing the reason does not mean that it can be created. There are more and more things you want to invent, but the possibility of ultimately staying on paper is increasing, and it is becoming more and more difficult for humans to advance technological leap.

Of course, technology will not stop progressing immediately. Technical improvements are still in progress, but the pace of growth will slow down. As a new round of technological revolution is too late to arrive, in the years to come, the role of technology in promoting society will not be as significant as in the past century and a half. Technology is very likely to enter a period of “growth stagnation”. As for the time span, if not forever, it is also a very long period.

In fact, human society is currently facing a dilemma in many technical fields, just like a giant beast in a quagmire, roaring and struggling, but trapped by the mud. What is jaw-dropping is that just as nightwalkers like to whistle loudly, since the 1980s, the beleaguered technology interest groups have increasingly tended to weave various technical gimmicks to maintain media attention. Intentionally or unintentionally, the general public’s impression of technology was concentrated on IT, so Moore’s Law became a household name, and the Internet became a representative of technological progress in the new century.

3.1 The technological dilemma facing humanity

Since the 1970s, apart from the IT noise of the media, humans have made little progress in many technical fields.

3.1.1 The stagnation of energy conversion technology

Regarding the conversion of vital energy into power technology, after 1969, human technological progress has slowed down significantly.

First, it leads to a stagnation of speed. In most of human history, relying on animal power, the maximum speed of human beings has remained at 25 miles per hour. After the appearance of the steam engine and internal combustion engine, it increased to about 100 miles per hour in 1900. After the aircraft appeared, it gradually approached the speed of sound, and the rocket was the peak. The highest human record to date is 25,000 mph, which was created by the “Apollo 10” in 1969. But everything ends here. In the 1970s, the flight time from London to New York was 8 hours, and it is still 8 hours. The only Concorde supersonic airliner to complete this voyage in 3 hours was retired in 2003. Today, if someone talks about space rockets, moon vacations, or manned explorations in the solar system, it’s like a dream (refer to the article “The End of the Future” above).

In terms of rocket propulsion, there is no major innovation, resulting in the high unit mass cost of space transportation. Nazi Germany produced the V1 and V2 rockets in the 1940s. In less than 30 years, the Saturn V rocket carrying the Apollo moon landing spacecraft visited the moon in 1969, extending the space span of mankind more than 100 times. At the time, many scientists predicted that humans would land on Mars at the end of the 20th century. But now it seems that with the desolation of the space shuttle, since there is no revolutionary change in propulsion technology, it is unlikely to be another 50 years. The legendary nuclear-powered rocket is now completely gone. It can even be said that if it is still based on chemical fuel rocket propulsion, human beings will be trapped in the solar system forever.

In terms of aviation technology, from the Wright Brothers wooden biplane to the sky, to the appearance of jet engines, to the Boeing 747 being put into service, a total of more than 60 years, the changes can only be described as rapid changes. However, since 1970, aviation technology has suddenly decelerated, and the Boeing aircraft and B-52, which began production more than 40 years ago, are still unabated. Thanks to the IT technology revolution, the new aircraft is more comfortable and communication is more convenient, but there is no major breakthrough in load capacity and range. It shows from the side that aviation technology is advancing at the speed of snail crawling.

In terms of personal transportation, it is still a family car based on 4 wheels and internal combustion engine, without any innovation in the main structure. In the “Back to the Future” trilogy filmed in the 1980s, there is not a single maglev pedal hair that I imagined to appear in 2015.

3.1.2 The dilemma of new energy

The two technological revolutions before World War II were essentially the development and utilization of new energy technologies. After World War II, mankind had high hopes for nuclear energy, but nuclear fission technology was difficult to take on the important task due to its inherent flaws, and nuclear fusion technology is nowhere in sight (the 60-year history of controlled nuclear fusion will be discussed later). In today’s energy field, oil and coal are still the world.

Since the 1970s, in every energy crisis in the world, there will always be people calling for new energy. Every time I brag about new energy, I always say that “technological progress is rapid, and the cost of power generation will be equal to that of firepower within a few years.” But the fact is: So far, all photovoltaic technologies and wind power technologies have far more power generation costs than thermal power, and they must rely on massive government subsidies to survive.

Take the United States as an example. After the first oil crisis, in 1974, Nixon called for energy independence in 1980. Thirty years later, Obama’s vision for the future is to achieve one-third of oil independence by 2020. As a result, it is shale oil, not new energy, that makes the US energy independent. Clean technology has become synonymous with “too expensive” energy, and it is almost a business in Silicon Valley that is not profitable.

As a netizen said, if any technology is to be industrialized, it must meet the requirements of industrialization and meet multiple indicators. And now the common domestic propaganda method is to talk about a certain indicator and avoid other unfavorable indicators. Take the rechargeable battery as an example. It is said that a new battery has a large capacity but avoids production costs, or that the battery is charged very quickly without talking about life and productivity. In fact, after hundreds of years of development, in most industries, unless there is a major breakthrough in basic theory, general technological progress is very slow. Many advances are achieved through the introduction of craftsmanship and other types of technology.

Industries such as photovoltaic power generation and wind power are all facing such a problem: their basic theories have appeared very early, but there has been no revolutionary breakthrough. They cannot significantly reduce the cost of power generation and cannot rely on their own strength to promote industrialization. Rely on government financial subsidies to achieve industrialization. But the government’s financial subsidies cannot last forever. If there is no major breakthrough, the alternative to oil will not be clean and expensive wind, water, and solar energy, but dirty and cheap coal.

3.1.3 Agriculture, medical and biotechnology

In the agricultural field, unlike before the 1950s, in many parts of the world, agricultural production has become an energy-intensive industry, and planting, fertilizer, pesticide spreading, and harvesting all rely on low-cost energy. Since the 1980s, water conservancy, fertilizer and energy inputs have made greater contributions to increasing grain production, while the cultivation of seeds has largely followed the old methods and technologies. There is no major breakthrough in the gene-based biotechnology that mankind is looking forward to. Therefore, the Green Revolution increased the food harvest by 126% from 1950 to 1980, but only increased by 47% from the 1980s to the present, barely keeping up with the world population growth.

In terms of medical technology, most people may feel that they have made great progress because the average life expectancy has been greatly extended. However, as discussed by netizen q75, this is an improvement brought about by a sharp drop in child mortality, and the physiological life span (end of no disease). There is no sign of prolongation, and the technology for drastically reducing child mortality was achieved half a century ago. Many people are impressed by the advanced facilities and luxurious buildings of the current hospital, which makes people feel that the medical technology is very NB. But behind the dazzling facilities such as CT, B-ultrasound and analyzers, it is actually the proliferation of IT technology.

Humans have made little progress in disease treatment technology. The cause of many diseases is still confusing, such as the simplest oral ulcers, so far there is no convincing conclusion. From the 1950s to 2005, the death rate from cancer decreased by only 5%. Although hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on research, apart from factors such as age and timely diagnosis, there is no big difference between 2014 and 1974 in terms of cancer treatment. In 1962, Kennedy said that we want to send mankind to the moon, and 7 years later, mankind really achieved the moon landing. In 1970, Nixon launched the “War of the Century” against cancer. Over the next 40 years, the US federal government has invested 100 billion dollars in this war, but victory is still far away.

Not only cancer, but the improvement of treatment effects for many diseases is horribly slow. In fact, the advancement of medicine and biology over the years is due to the advancement and proliferation of IT technology. Equipment such as CAT has improved medical technology more than the advancement of medical technology itself. Regarding medical technology itself, some scholars have begun to suggest that technological progress has begun to slow down. [Has medical innovation slowed down? Has Medical Innovation Slowed Down?]

Another example of medical technology getting into trouble is drug development. Since the 1950s, the number of new drugs approved for investment of US$1 billion in research and development has been halved every 9 years. This “inverted Moore’s law” in the field of biotechnology has profoundly revealed the difficulties faced by drug development. (Incidentally, China’s Development and Reform Commission has created countless “new drugs”. Every time the price is reduced, the name of the drug is added by a vest.)

In the field of biology, since the discovery of the double helix structure, it has been claimed countless times to enter the century of “biology” and to guide engineering practice like Newtonian mechanics. As a result, until now, the dynamic principles of DNA are still unknown. So yes. For example, why does a genetic change cause the difference between a high nose bridge and a low nose bridge, and what is the intermediate process? In Newtonian mechanics, differential equations can be used to describe related particle motion problems, but in biology, it has been almost 60 years, and only observations can show the phenomenon. The internal mechanism cannot be revealed in depth, let alone the use of the mechanism, which has disappointed countless times. . Anyone who engages in biology can only desperately send papers to apply for funding, which leads to extremely high SCI impact factors for related journals.

DNA double helix

Bioengineering has portrayed many bright prospects, but what is more funny is that Watson, the discoverer of the double helix structure and the greatest scientist, declared himself in 2013: For many years of research, he wanted to use gene sequences to treat cancer and other diseases. It can be said to be worthless. [Development and stagnation of modern medical science-gene therapy encounters setbacks

The development and stagnation of modern medical science-gene therapy encounters setbacks-CPPCC News Network-People’s Daily Online]

Half a century ago, people optimistically claimed that they would be able to understand the thinking characteristics of the brain by the year 2000, but now the understanding of the brain by humans is not much different from that of 50 years ago. If you insist that there is any result, it is to realize that the complexity of the brain is far from being described by current human knowledge.

3.1.4 Troubles in the depth of information technology

In the current hot IT field, the expansion in breadth is impressive. PCs and mobile phones are rapidly becoming popular, and the Internet has profoundly changed many things. But in depth, it began to face a series of troubles.

Since Shannon put forward his theory, the basic framework of communication has not changed much. In the 1970s, there were revolutionary breakthroughs from wired to wireless and copper wire to optical fiber. After that, it faced the communication of the new century. Demand, began to use “base station sea” tactics to solve the problem, and now there is a phenomenon of diminishing marginal utility such as 3G-4G-5G. Of course, some people are willing to fool the layman with the concept of quantum communication.

In the field of signal processing, neural networks have been lively for a while, and everyone feels that the future is elusive, and then flashy concepts such as SVM appear. In the new century, neural networks are packaged and come out again in the cloak of deep learning.

The originator of all computers at present is the Turing machine. In fact, the working principle of the latest computer is not much different from that of 50 years ago. In the 1980s, Japan once declared that it would develop a fifth-generation “smart” computer, but now it has died down (Do you remember the cartoon “Astro Boy” when you were a child?). More and more scholars realize that many problems cannot be solved by stacking computing power in Moore’s Law. In fact, there is an example that everyone comes into contact with every day. In order to prevent machines from posting and registering, handwritten “authentication codes” are used on the Internet, relying on the brain’s ability to recognize irregular things to defeat the computing power of computers.

As for quantum computers and biological computers, which are highly respected by laymen, if people in the industry apply for such a National Natural Science Foundation, the probability of passing the first pass is very small.

3.1.5 Other technologies

In the replies to the first edition of the post, many experts gave their opinions on machinery, construction, materials science, chemistry and chemical engineering, and generally felt that the frontier was stagnant. You can observe your surroundings. Many crafts and technologies have been around for decades, even half a century.

The full-text catalog is as follows

1 Civilization and technology
1.1 Rough talk about paradigm
1.2 The paradigm shift experienced by human civilization
1.3 Science Theory stagnation
1.4 The gap between science and technology
1.4.1 Nature of Science
1.4.2 The core of the technology
1.4.3 Talking from Watt: Positive feedback caused by steam engine
1.4.4 Demand is not a lifesaver
1.5 Science and Technology Interest Group

2 The paradigm spring dream advocated by scientific and technological interest groups: the so-called technological explosion

2.1 Rendering and brainwashing
2.2 Papers and patents: the absurdity behind astronomical numbers

2.3 The bit world and the real world
2.4 Part and whole
2.2 -2.4

3 The shadow outside the paradigm spring dream

3.1 The technological dilemma faced by humans

    3.1.1 The stagnation of energy conversion technology

    3.1.2 The dilemma of new energy

    3.1.3 Agriculture, medical and biotechnology

    3.1.4 Troubles in the depth of information technology

    3.1.5 Other technologies

 3.2 Numerous technical gimmicks

    3.2.1 Solar / PV gimmicks that fell early

    3.2.2 The enduring artificial intelligence gimmick

    3.2.3 Amazing quantum computer gimmicks

    3.2.4 Awesome nano-material gimmick

    3.2.5 New gimmicks in recent years

 3.3 Frustration of PhD laborers and biotechnology

    3.3.1 The origin and influence of biological gimmicks

    3.3.2 Research paradigm and problems

4 The dilemma of low-entropy body and the technical steps faced
4.1 From the second law of thermodynamics

    4.1.1 The wisdom of Tao Te Ching

    4.1.2 Negative entropy flow and the leap of civilization

 4.2 The backbone and forks of the technology tree

 4.3 Forever 50 years and controlled nuclear fusion

    4.3.1 Dream of perpetual motion machine

    4.3.2 Difficult delivery and gimmicks of controlled nuclear fusion

 4.4 Think calmly : the future is not necessarily better

The Pit Before 5 Steps: The Fate of Human Society

5.1 The Sociological Significance of Dissipative Structure Theory

5.2 The disappearance of the big competitive environment

5.3 Differences erased by globalization and the thermodynamic balance of human society

5.4 Aging self-locking

5.5 How to fill the hole?

The essence of 6 steps: complexity devil

6.1 What is complexity

6.2 Two rules behind the complicated world: survival of the fittest and expectation of return on capital

6.3 Technological progress and technological revolution: changes in complexity

     6.3.1 Evolution example of transportation / power system

     6.3.2 The characteristics and complexity of the technological revolution

     6.3.3  The high-complexity science devil facing

     6.3.4  Dilemma originating from technical foundation

6.4 Many evil consequences brought by high complexity ( more is different)

 6.4.1 I know you have a life and death race

 6.4.2 Maintenance costs

6.4.3 Negative feedback from society

6.5 Simple mathematical derivation

7 Silent Star implied by the prospect of terror

7.1 The Great Silence and Fermi Paradox

7.2 Three scenarios for contemplating extreme fear

7.3 The Great Sieve of the Universe

7.4 A small match

8 reflection and summary

8.1 The tragedy of Easter Island

8.2 Calmness does not mean pessimism

8.3 R&D requires a paradigm revolution

8.3.1 Starting from the central limit theorem and the law of large numbers

8.3.2 Disadvantages of the current scientific research system
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