Think Exponential

Fotolia_43336895_S copyThinking Exponential exists to change how you see technology – to think of it as a series of predictable steps or generations. The implications are world changing.

Humans think in terms they can relate to. We base our expectations on our experience, we live in linear time and space. Walking to turn on the lights takes 10 equal steps. An hour in day is as long as any other hour. Life is Linear.

Technology is fundamentally different. Technology grows exponentially. Each step is double the one before it, compounding with each iteration. Technology is Exponential.

This is the key difference between human linear thinking and technology exponential thinking. 10 steps linearly is still 10 steps. 10 steps exponentially is about 1,000 steps.

Linearly you add the steps together. 10 steps is (1 + 1 + …) to a total 10.
Exponentially you multiply the steps. 10 steps is (2 * 2 * …) to a total of 1024.

Taken one step further, 20 linear steps is still 20 steps. 20 exponential steps is 1,000,000 steps.

Why does this matter? Because the capability of technology grows exponentially. Computers, Internet, Mobile, RoboticsGenetics, Synthetic Life, Nanotech, 3D Printing are all growing exponentially with profound implications.

TavianIt’s not just technology, you are an exponential relationship. When you were conceived, you started as a single humble cell. That cell split into 2 cells, then 4, then 8 and so forth. It kept dividing until you were born nine months later. A baby is about a 2 trillion cells. To get to a trillion, a cell needs to divide only 41 times. Only 41 steps makes a breathing living human – like this little one.

You may be amazed to know that your cells, on average, will only divide 55-60 times in your lifespan. When it comes to biology, humans have a habit of calling exponential trends miracles.

In reality it’s just math.

As a general rule, any technology follows a perception curve followed by a reality curve.

Technology is always over promised, the over delivers on a massive scale.

In the 80’s, who seriously considered a simple concept of connecting two computers together would give rise to the Internet. That a the brick cell phone would one day become the smart phone. That a 15 year $1.5 billion DNA project to read a human genome would one day be doable in two days for under $10K.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 3.41.44 PMThere are a number of implications not fully realized with Exponential Trends in technology.

1. Each step in an exponential trend is double the previous generation. Which is why technology is underestimated. 

2. Each step is equal to the total progress of all previous steps, hence the last step is the half way point.

3. Often you hear about the knee of the curve, the point where things take off. We are always at the knee of the curve.

There are many exponential trends in our daily lives. In biology, algea, cancer, rabbit populations are exponential. Earthquakes are measured on a logarithmic scale. A 6.6 is 10 times as strong as 5.6 on the Richter scale. In finance, a compound interest rates will double an investment every seven years, turning 20K into a million in your lifetime.

Technology is Exponential by standing on the shoulders of the previous generation. 10 generations or steps equates to a 1,000 fold improvement. 20 generations a million, 30 a billion. Each generation only takes 8 months to 2 years, which is why technology seems to come from nowhere to be everywhere.

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