Envisioneering Technology

On Saturday, I attended an exhibit on Leonardo Da Vinci, entitled “The Da Vinci Machines Exhibition”. It was being held in the expansive lobby of the downtown Bank of America building. I don’t think that this bank lobby is in regular use anymore, because except for the exhibition, the lobby appeared rather empty and vacant. The exhibition comprised mainly wooden models of various Da Vinci inventions. Originally, I thought that it might be free, but I was mistaken. The regular ticket price was $15, but I got the senior price of only $11, being over 55 years old. I think that this is a first for me. I was less than impressed with this exhibit; it seemed to only cheapen Da Vinci’s reputation, instead of enhancing it. The tour didn’t help either, with its emphasis on extending attribution to Da Vinci, for a host of inventions whose veracity seemed somewhat doubtful. At times it seemed that the tour guide was acting like a patent attorney, trying to extend the reach of his client’s 16th century patent filings. I am pretty sure though that Archimedes invented the Archimedes Screw.

The pictures that I had taken at this exhibit were languishing, until yesterday. Yesterday, another great inventor died, Steven Paul Jobs. In the Apple/PC divide, I remain firmly rooted on the PC side, but I do appreciate the other side too. Last year, I purchased my first Apple product, an iPhone. Actually, I bought four iPhones, but that is another story. Shortly after this purchase, I found myself in Silicon Valley. I spoke with a member of a software company, who gleefully announced that they had just sold some voice recognition software to Apple for half a billion dollars. This program was unveiled earlier this this week as part of the iPhone 4S release, as Siri, the new personal digital assistant App. Although originally developed for the iPhone 3GS, the one I own, it will only be released on the iPhone 4S. You have got to recoup that purchase cost.

Like Da Vinci’s renaissance, our more modern computer revolution has brought sweeping changes and many improvements to the human condition. Like Da Vinci, Jobs is a hero of his time. The question still remains though, will gleam and shine of Jobs’ techno-baubles dim over time so that in 500 years they look like only wooden toys. The resale value on old personal electronics is not a good leading economic indicator. Maybe the Mona Lisa, with her enigmatic half smile knows the real answer?

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