Tech more than machines

Maryann Kopp

The future of technology covers a very wide spectrum of topics, many of which might not even occur to most people when considering the subject.
“When the word technology is used,” begins Jason Dixon, professor of machining and manufacturing in Bakersfield College’s Industrial Technology Department, “oftentimes people imply that it is synonymous with computers. That is not necessarily technology.”
Dixon went on to explain the etymology of the word “technology” as coming from the Greek word “teknologia,” which means “craftsman or skilled worker, originally relating to carpenters.”
While acknowledging that computers are, indeed, a form of technology, Dixon says that they are not the actual definition at all.
“Tools used for building a home, manufacturing a metal part or for taking raw crude oil and turning it into a number of products, be it fuel, lubricating greases, or plastics, are also a form of technology,” said Dixon.
I.T. Dean Bob Tuttle believes that the American society, as far as careers in trade and the future of technology are concerned, has “dropped the ball.”
“Our society does not put enough emphasis on trade skills in high school,” stated Tuttle. “As a consequence, most of the high school programs in such areas have been shut down, and the local industry is crying the blues.”
Dixon concurs by saying that another common misconception concerning technology has to do with “automation,” and that people assume that trade skills are no longer needed because machines will be doing everything for us in the future.
“A lot of people think that computer-controlled machines will completely replace manual machines someday, but manual machines are still needed,” asserts Dixon. “I’m always going to be producing machinists.”
“There is that perspective that computer controlled machines will replace manual machines, yet we are suffering from a shortage of machinists here in Kern County.”
Tuttle touched upon nanotechnology, or the science of building different devices from single molecules or atoms.
“There are some exciting possibilities concerning nanotechnology,” said Tuttle. “Stain-resistant clothing is a result of nanotechnology, and that is just a millionth of what nanotechnology has to offer.”
One of the most recent findings in nanotechnology is inside the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review, in Prachi Patel-Predd’s article “The World’s Smallest Radio,” which is, in fact, a radio that is made out of a single nanotube.
According to the article, “researchers have fashioned the world’s tiniest radio out of a carbon nanotube. The nanotube, placed between two electrodes, combines the roles of all the major electrical components in a radio, including the tuner and amplifier. It can tune into a radio signal and play the audio through an external speaker.”
Heading the development of the nanotube radio is UC Berkeley experimental physicist, Alex Zettl, who explained that the nanotube is able to take four different functioning parts of any given radio (the antenna, amplifier, demodulator and tuner) and combine it into one nanotube.
Zettl also said that such a finding was “a revelation.”
Developments in biotechnology have made some interesting headlines, including a recently-developed crop that is supposed to kill crop-destroying insects via “RNA interference.”
Katherine Bourzac’s article in Technology Review states that RNA interference is “a process whereby double-stranded RNA copies of specific genes prevent cells from translating those genes into proteins.”
The finding is considerable as such a process could only be accomplished in the past via injection.
Whether it’s saving crops or trade skills, future technology may be capricious at some points, but is also relatively predictable at others.