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Subject:  The Fifth Wave Date:  1/25/2013  12:19 AM
Author:  Goofyhoofy Number:  414264 of 482012

Oops, it's my Fool balloon day. I generally take the opportunity to write something, well, offbeat. Different. Irrelevant. And usually overlong. Feel free to skip it. It generally means little to anyone but me, but since the Fool has honored me with these brightly colored balloons, I can hardly ignore it can it? And why would I bother with the same old drivel? (OK, why would you, either?)

Today's topic: I wish I would still be around in 40 years:

Ahem. Nobody knows how long it took for humankind to stop aimlessly wandering about the prairie and take up agriculture, but it didn't happen quickly. The so-called "agricultural revolution" lasted thousands of years, and encompassed other, smaller leaps like the iron and bronze ages, the rise of religions, and early state civilizations.

One of the "revolutions" we learned about in grade school began in the id 1700's and lasted 70 or 80 years: the Industrial Revolution, where people began to grasp the application of mechanical power to industrial processes, rather than using human - or animal - muscle. Water power became important, and even more, the harnessing of steam to run machines in mills from sewing to sawing, and in transport from river to rail.

Another revolution followed, we call it the "2nd" Industrial Revolution, and it was the first over again, but on steroids. The IR redux heralded the deployment of electricity and motors, the internal combustion engine, new metallic alloys which allowed mass production and deployment of new implements for farm and pleasure. And it was communications, most notably the telegraph, telephone, and radio, and I'd lump the rise of modern newspapers and mass market magazines in there as well. IT2 lasted another 80 years or so: from about 1850 to 1930, plus or minus.

As has been pointed out by many others, things keep speeding up, time compresses, and surely enough the next revolution started around 1950 and lasted until the turn of the century, (again, feel free to argue over the exact beginning): the Digital Revolution started with the change from tubes to transistors, and encompassed everything electronic: computing, logic, fax, cell; and the conversion from analogs to bits for things from music and video to newspaper and phone calls. Fifty years or so, this time.

Since that's the era we are most familiar with, dive in for a moment. That transistor in the 1950's may have been grand enough to win a Nobel prize, but nobody looking at it could have imagined the changes it presaged by 1980, or 1990, or especially 2000. Things accelerate: they start small, almost innocuous, and gather steam as new begets newer and newer begets newest until all manner of invention and change is tumbling out all over each other almost faster than the market can absorb them.

In 1760 almost nobody knew what a steam engine was, by 1850 everybody had seen one, probably ridden on a steamship or paddlewheel boat, heard of or climbed aboard a railroad, perhaps worked in a mechanically powered factory, or at least knew several siblings who had migrated off the farm. At the start of the 2nd industrial revolution electricity was not well understood, the telegraph, after decades of false starts, was barely funded and more experimental than useful, the telephone was yet to be invented, and radio lay another half-century in the future.

Within a couple decades of the turn of the century airplanes were flying, radio stations had call letters, people were buying automobiles with internal combustion engines, many urban homes had telephones and electricity, and we were well on our way to 100 years of technical progress. That's the amazing thing to me: the difference between the beginning of each epoch and the end, or if not the end, then the launch of the next, whatever it is and wherever it comes from.

Each new revolution doesn't herald the collapse of the last; indeed, they are additive. We still live in the age of the agricultural revo