– Ben Martens

Exponential Growth

in-the-year-2000A common generalization is that grandparents have a hard time keeping up with technology (though there are exceptions of course.) My grandparents were born before about 1930. Think about what the world looked like back then. That’s horse and buggy territory. Technology has come a LONG way since then.

Humans have a bias toward thinking that progress happens linearly meaning that in the next 80 years, we’ll see roughly the same amount of progress that we did in the previous 80 years. If that’s true, I can’t even begin to imagine what the world will look like when I’m heading for assisted living.

The truth is even more remarkable though. Instead of progressing linearly, technology is advancing exponentially. This means that not only is technology advancing, the rate of advancement is also increasing. We will advance more this year than last year and so on.

It’s hard to think about this or observe it while you’re in it, but if you look back in history, it’s a little more obvious. It took us thousands of years to go from horses to cars, but the cars from just 50 years ago are relics compared to what we have now. Similarly, computers were huge and bulky for the first decades of their existence, but now they are getting small, faster and more powerful every year.

The amount of data that we collect is rapidly increasing too. At a recent Big Data conference, one of the speakers estimated that 90% of all the data that the world has was generated in the last two years. By 2016 the total amount of data will double every two months and by 2020, it could be doubling every SECOND. Even if those numbers are a bit off, it helps to show what exponential growth looks like.

With all that in mind, how will I ever keep up with technology as I grow older? Grandparents have a hard enough time now. With the exponential growth of technology, is it hopeless for us who think we are sort of in touch now? Probably, but maybe we’ll be able to abstract technology away from the user in such a way that the user doesn’t have to understand much about how it works to get value out of it.

I’m not a futurist and I struggle to bring this post to a reasonable conclusion. I don’t have any magic answers but this stuff has been on my mind a lot lately, especially when I see Elijah interacting with any technology. He’s going to look back on these times as the technological stone age, and it’s awesome to think about what the future world will look like.

One thought on “Exponential Growth

  1. Ken C.

    I’m looking forward to future hipsters ironicly taking pictures of food with iphones and applying instagram filters to them. I’m hoping I can keep up with technology. It’s the slang I can/don’t want to keep up with. Because fleek bae is cray right? I have no idea what any of that means.