The Future Is Exponential

from the looking-good... dept

If you’re a raging optimist, here’s one for you. Ray Kurzweil has written (not surprisingly) a bunch of very optimistic predictions for the future. I hope he’s right. His point is that many people underestimate the rate of future advance, because technological progress grows at an exponential rate, while most of us expect it to grow at a linear rate. It’s a very good point (a quick look at history can support that to some extent). However, I’m still not exactly clear on why he thinks he can read those exponential trends so well. However, he does predict that by 2009 we’ll do away with PCs altogether, and everyone will have a “wearable” computer as part of their body with the data being beamed directly onto our retinas. I can’t wait.

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Comments on “The Future Is Exponential”

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mhh5 says:

Wow, that's optimistic!

Exponential growth! Bah humbug. Plenty of phenomena are said to grow exponentially, but don’t when you examine them further. Human population growth can be *modelled* in exponential form as well. Does that mean we can expect to have huge overpopulation issues really soon, too? Not necessarily! As they say, past results do not guarantee future returns. Moore’s law is just a fitted curve–there’s no underlying rationale for it. Make all the predictions you want, but don’t argue that one model is better than another (linear vs. exponential) without addressing the underlying causes. And an underlying cause is NOT just: “look how well the curve fits, it must be true.”

Ryan says:

Re: Wow, that's optimistic!

I have to agree with mhh5 (although it seems we often disagree;) ), in nature all populations try to reach exponential growth but physical factors always limit this. In the case of rabbits running wild in austrialia, starvation and predetors have eventually caught up and slowed their almost expontial growth. A bunch of other similar examples have been recorded.

However, saying this it doesn’t seem unfeasible for growth to continue for the foresable future exponentially (at least within our life times), assuming that as one growth inducing technology starts to taper off another one enters the exponential phase.

Umm… okay did that make any sense to anyone else? Or have I just come out looking like an optimist again, sh*t!

mhh5 says:

Re: Re: Wow, that's optimistic!

I didn’t know you felt that way. I’m not sure I remember disagreeing with you. We can check the archives if we really want, but anyway… I wasn’t disputing the “short term exponential growth” since obviously the curve fits. I just wanted to bring out the point that there is _no reason_ given for why this should be true (or more true than linear growth). I think we should just be happy that progress is positive and increasing. 🙂 Seriously though, I’m sure there are some good reasons why exponential growth is occurring now. I tend to think it has something to do with the fact that one good thing leads to several others. However, I’m not sure why one bad thing doesn’t lead to a cancelling effect…? Maybe the universe is just set up to coddle us as we evolve. Now, THAT is optimistic.

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