Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Odyssey: a 3,000-year-old techno thriller.

When people encounter new technologies they tend to create horror stories how the technology is going to mess up their lives. The Matrix provides a good example of a recent scare.
Stanley Kubrik's Space Odyssey 2001, filmed in 1968, goes further. It takes two new technologies — space navigation and artificial intelligence (AI) — and shows an astronaut on the brink of death caused by a combination of techs. The latest movie hit, "Gravity," is based on a similar premise.

As I read Homer's The Odyssey, the original 3,000-year old classic, I see a similar portrayal of the sea navigation technology, which the Ancient Greeks developed during the Homeric times. Odysseus, the main character of the story, cannot get home for 10 years because he upset Poseidon, the main sea god. He barely escapes Poseidon's wrath and all his crew dies in a shipwreck.

Another key character, King Menelaus, has his ship blown off course multiple times. He has to spend years in Egypt instead of Greece, unable to communicate with his loved ones. In most stories told by the Odyssey, seafarers are smashed by the rocks, swallowed by the waves, and torn to pieces by the winds. The danger is everywhere, and only the smartest and luckiest ones, like Odysseus himself, survive and prosper.

Eventually, the Ancient Greeks mastered sea travel and turned into a dominant force in international war and commerce. Few centuries later, they got overrun by the Romans, who developed a major innovation in transportation - the permanent road paved with stone. (Remember the old saying: All roads lead to Rome.)

Back to the modern times, it bothers me that we haven't had any good new technological horror movies lately. Are we running out of breakthrough innovations?

tags: innovation, distribution, control

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