Life in these United States is pretty good. There’s plenty of cheap food, as our expanding waist lines attest. There’s plenty of overpriced shelter, as declining residential real estate prices attest. But what’s missing is the next big thing to power our economic fortunes higher. We have everything we need, and more than we should want. What technological innovation might lie around the next bend that will make our pain-free lives even more satisfying? As Andy Kessler opines in the Wall Street Journal today, video games:
This fall, the Chinese National University of Defense Technology announced that it had created the world’s fastest supercomputer, Tianhe-1A, which clocks in at 2.5 petaflops (or 2,500 trillion operations) per second. This is the shape of the world to come—but not in the way you might think.
Powering the Tianhe-1A are some three million processing cores from Nvidia, the Silicon Valley company that has sold hundreds of millions of graphics chips for videogames. That’s right—every time someone fires up a videogame like Call of Duty or World of Warcraft, the state of the art in technology advances. Hug a geek today.
What a dismal prospect–video games driving our technological advancement. Soon enough, reality and fantasy will merge into one murky soup. Kessler goes on to conclude that the world will get better (technology geeks seem to all be happy optimists when imagining the future) because of video games:
The economy is not going to create wealth just because we print dollars, build fast trains, put up windmills, or even assemble military supercomputers. (For the record, Google has the largest and fastest supercomputer, spread over dozens of data centers.) Even China will someday learn that wealth only comes from productivity. That’s found in a different place every cycle—and the stock market will find it first and fund its expansion. So where is it now? It’s staring us in the face and amusing us to a better life.
Amusing us to a better life? Really? I don’t believe that’s desirable, even were it possible.