Technology, Progress and Relativity

A bit more than ten years ago, while attending a class at my engineering school, a professor told us that it would soon be possible for a computer to recognize someone’s face in a jpeg picture or to automatically find who is the author of a song. Knowing that the audio CD sales were at their peak, digital camera useless and the iPod still inexistent, that sounded like (exciting) science fiction.

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06 April 2012: Holy week procession at Salamanca, Spain. [Click on the picture to enlarge it].

Today, Facebook, iPhoto and many others propose automatic tagging of our pictures and nobody finds surprising that Shazam works even in crowded noisy bars (Gosh… i love it). Of course, in computer science, ten years is an eternity. But I find interesting to, from time to time, try to remember what was “normality” few years ago.

I haven’t seen anyone using a cassette (K7) player or even a Discman (CD player) for a long time now. No pile of CD, batteries or cassettes in the traveler’s bags. MP3 and digital music are part of our life now, and not just as a way to illegally acquire music. I personally haven’t purchased a CD in years (I don’t even have one in my room) but I buy music on iTunes on a monthly basis and only use my computer/iPod.

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06 April 2012: Holy week procession at Salamanca, Spain. [Click on the picture to enlarge it].

But while Internet, emails, digital cameras, smart phones and computers seem like normal technology for most of us, many people never got access to it. E.g. I worked in Darfur with a fantastic Ghanaian, who had never used a computer in his life. Copying pictures from a memory stick to a laptop was science fiction to him. Unfortunately, under the current circonstances, his salary will certainly never be high enough to allow him to buy a computer. At home, he has a cassette player. The same cassette player that our children do not recognize anymore

How will it be in 10 years time?

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06 April 2012: Holy week procession at Salamanca, Spain. [Click on the picture to enlarge it].

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