An Explanation of Exponential Growth
(ED NOTE: Some say, “Yeah, Singularity is Near; take a right at the Nut House”. But, one cannot deny the technological changes that have occurred in the past 8 years, since the introduction of the Smartphone, and the Factors of Convergence, expoused by Dr. Topol. This article is relevant to the tech changes on the horizon, which, of course, will affect medicine in many areas)
By Glyn Taylor 30/04/2013
Exponential growth of technological advances is the phenomenon which is the base for many predictions of the future. A reason most people fail to understand that certain incredible technological advances will be achieved within 50 years, is because they instinctively don’t see growth as being exponential. Continue reading to see what exponential growth is, and how it is about to skyrocket our technological advances.
So, first let’s establish the basics: the rate in which our technological advances are achieved, is increasing. Many studies have tracked the advances of many different measures of information technology, and have identified that they double on average every 1 year. A quick example of our advances so far, is the current smartphone…
UNIVAC – 1970′s Computer
The 2011 smartphones were 1,000 times faster than the top computers of 1970, which took the space of half a building and were a million times more expensive. Now in 2013, smartphones have 4 times the power than in 2011, and have a whole bunch of other new features.
Why we don’t naturally think exponentially
The way we think is defined by our traditional, pre-programmed survival instincts. For the need of survival, we have only ever needed to think of growth as being linear. For example, if we build 1 house per week, then in 30 days we will have 30 houses; we eat 1 chicken per day, then we need 30 for a months supply; we drink a gallon of water a day, then we need 30 gallons for the month.
How to think exponentially
When it comes to thinking about how our technology will advance then, we think in the same linear growth manner. We think that, (hypothetically) if a computer held 1GB of memory in the year 2001, and in 2010 it held 512GB, then in 2020 it will hold about 1,000GB. That is incorrect. By the year 2020, with memory capacity having grown exponentially, a computer would hold 524,288GB of memory. And when we reach the year 2030, memory capacity would be over a billion GB – 1,073,741,824GB.
Lets think with those exponential numbers in mind and relate them to our current technologies. Lets think about the tech that we carry on our persons at all times. Currently it is the smartphone. We know how primitive they were in the year 2001; most of us didn’t even have one; being able to view web pages on it was unthinkable. So, relate it the the numbers above. In 2001, the tech we always carried was as good as that 1 number. In 2010, it was as good as that the 512 number. Now imagine what sort of tech we will be carrying around at all times by the year 2020? It will be that 524,288 number. Now try and think about your smartphone being that much more advanced than it is now in 2013.
Of course though, not all areas of technology advance at an exponential rate. The technologies that are advancing exponentially though, will pull along other advances, this is what is called ‘the law of accelerating returns’.
Take a look at Ray Kurzweil’s overview of our technological exponential growth below.
Another great video about exponential growth is below. It has racked up more than 4,000,000 views and is described as “the most important video you will ever see”.
How is it happening?
Technological advances affect everything. While it is advancing itself, it also advances, for example, health care, life expectancy, our productivity at work, the enjoyment we get from our entertainment, the amount of people that can live in a city. Currently, the growth in the rate of our technological advance is spearheaded by advances in computer chip technology. Through the tracking of this growth, it has been pronounced ‘Moore’s Law’. At some point in the next decade, the computer chip will reach the maximum level it can advance. But that does not mean that the exponential growth of technological advances will end. Another technology will simply take over the role of spearheading the growth. At around the year 2020, Quantum Computing will take over from the computer chip, and will be far far more advanced. Quantum Computing could even rise the rate of growth higher than the exponential rate.
So what does it mean?
It means that, although you don’t yet notice exponential growth, soon we will hit a rate of advance that will begin to shock people. It means that we will begin to see the possibilities that are on the horizon and speeding towards us. We will begin to rethink our ideologies and religions. Some will be scared. Some will be excited. All will be panicking. The panic will spark the rapid deployment of new security measures, while others scramble to be the first to acquire the next big weapon technology. It will divide opinion, but unite governments in a combined effort to fight crime and terrorism. We need to understand this future, or risk being caught off guard by possible future threats.
We will show you what is possible
With the understanding of exponential growth, people tend to look at future possibilities with a much more open mind. Predictions of the future that were made in the 20th century, were largely made without consideration of trends and what society will want and need as their priority. Flying cars are not needed, and will not be needed for a very long time. It is not a priority to build them. When people were predicting flying cars, they didn’t even know what would make them fly, or what would even power them. I would much prefer to have my smartphone, rather than a hover board; a smartphone of which was not even predicted in the Back to the Future Movie. The point is, the latest generation of futurists, should not be prejudged by what previous generations failed to predict. The predictions of the future that are being made now, are far far more educated.
This website displays what is possible, and what dates in the future those possibilities will most likely become reality. Nothing is certain. But if exponential growth continues, everything will be possible. Explore some of those possibilities by browsing through the subjects in the top blue menu.