Past, present and future technologies are often formed by several conditions but the advancement of the human race has invariably centred around two modes of thought. That of science and the information that leads us to make further discoveries and then that of engineering, the application of the science gleamed.
As each generation passes, there is an influx of new ideas that have never been conceived before or concepts based on old ideology. Often several centuries can separate thought from discovery and inception of a device or finding a real terms use for the technology.
Take for instance the marvellous historical example of Leonardo da Vinci. A visionary and artist he lived in the 15th century, he wrote and designed at length a variety of future tech which would not be invented as such, for four to five hundred years.
Several of these aspects which he detailed in diagrammatic form was the plane, the tank, solar power and a calculator. Consider the effect on human history had he managed to work out and calculate how to bring all these items into fruition. History would be a completely different place. Indeed the industrial age may not have caused so much harm on the environment.
It is much the same with any of our ideas. We call ourselves futurists, but while we live in the now we can also envisage a time in the future where technology not yet invented, discovered or prevalent will have a profound effect on the future. Even though we cannot inherently change it now, our ideas as individuals will and do have an effect on what can be discovered in the future by someone else.
Within Industry, one of the biggest determining factor in a business' ability to remain competitive is based upon the engineering machinery they use. The quality of the machinery they use can have a massive bearing on the precision and quality of their products, as well as the efficiency of their manaufacturing operation and the profitability of the business as a whole.
If you work within the tech industry (or would like to), it is important to keep up-to-date with the latest tech news, particularly through the many avenues, including blogs, forums and associations which most engineers regularly monitor, both generally on tech, but also with industry-specific resources. Using these you can find out all sorts of useful information about new technology, how it could affect change, and what types of skills will be required to support them in the future. This means that you get a competitive advantage from being well informed, which is why many professional associations require their members to keep themselves up to date.
Which is why the British Science Association organises a National Science And Engineering Week each year. To bring a wider awareness to the general public and schools and youth groups on how science and engineering is really the basis of all human evolution.
Cutlery may not have changed in 2000 years but it has morphed into several other different designs and has varied capabilities in many different industries. Put holes in a spoon and it becomes an egg holder or strainer, add a mechanical arm and engine to a knife and it becomes a blender.
A 9th century windmill which aided in the creation of flour using natural resources is now on the rise again, proliferating the countryside with wind turbines for electricity generation. And without apples dropping, Einstein's theories and the discovery of flight over a few hundred years, we would now not be in the midst of another international space race.
As futurists we are in a great position to think about everything and set future generations on the path to discovery. As scientists we can use a variety of known theories to embark on new ideology. The crossover point and for engineers is to take our thoughts and our scientific discoveries and put them into practical use.