The stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones. It ended because we learnt how to make and work something even more versatile…metal. Bronze and then Iron.
Those “Ages” took us thousands of years to get through. But things have speeded up a bit as we have harnessed, made and learnt how to use many other things –the Industrial Age (revolution) leading to the Engine Age and then a rat-a-tat-tat of Jet Age, Atomic Age, Space Age, Digital Age (another revolution) and Information Age.
Many of those advances have taken place in an overlapping “Oil Age” which has lasted little more than a century. And picking up on the theme of this column last week, that Age is entering the beginning of its end not primarily because we are running out of oil. We could keep using this and other fossil fuels for at least another century, even at gas-guzzling rates.
But it will be replaced by the “Electric Age” because oil-sourced energy is ultimately finite, more expensive to extract, has some end-of-the-world-side effects and above all because we have discovered (but so far grossly under-used) more ways to make something better – electricity – using more powerful methods like nuclear fusion/fission and infinitely more abundant and planet-friendly sources like rivers (hydro power), the sun (solar power), the wind and ocean currents.
The fundamental point here is that imminent swing from petrol and diesel to electric and hybrid motor vehicles will dominate the headlines for a while, but in practice this change will be a quiet evolution. The real “Revolution” will be how we generate the electricity and how we use what will be massive advances in that process in myriad ways other than the propulsion of your car.
All existing technology for generating electricity will improve exponentially in efficiency, availability and versatility – at prices that get progressively lower and for sure there will be new technologies not yet thought of.
Read more: Daily Nation