We are living in a society that is in the midst of dramatic transformation. We are living in a time where the rate of transformation is continuously increasing. We are living in The Exponential Age.
What Do We Mean By Exponential?
Exponential refers to an increase that compounds consistently over time. Whereas a linear process increases or decreases at a constant rate, an exponential process increases or decreases at a compounded rate. Linear functions are straight lines while exponential functions are curved lines.
The Exponential Age
Complexity scientists refer to moments of radical change as ‘phase transitions’. The rapid reorganisation of modern society is such a moment. A phase transition has been reached and the transformation is unfolding right before our eyes.
For example, consider the first microchip that contained 4,000 transistors that cost one dollar each compared to today’s state-of-the-art microchips that feature more than six trillion transistors which cost fractions of a penny. They’re 6,500 times faster and 4.2 million times cheaper. That’s exponential.
Thanks to technological advances, society is being propelled forward by many new innovations including computing, artificial intelligence, renewable energy, energy storage and breakthroughs in biology and manufacturing.
Why Humans Underestimate Exponential Change
Why do humans consistently underestimate the power of exponential change? The answer lies stems from our evolutionary past.
For most of human history, we lived very routine and monotonous lives. As a consequence, our brains evolved to operate in an environment of slow change. In other words, the human brain, by default, thinks linearly instead of exponentially.
So while we live in modern-aged times defined by fast transformation, we still bear stone-aged minds designed for slow transformation.
Is The Exponential Age Good Or Bad?
Conversations around technology naturally bring up the question of whether it is “good or bad.” People on one side of the argument believe that technology is helpful to humanity while those on the other side believe technology is harmful.
However, the truth is, technology is neither good nor bad. Technology is neutral. How we chose to harness the power of technology is what determines its affects.
An analogy may help. A knife can be used to either slice a loaf of bread or kill someone. The knife itself is neither good nor bad, it’s our intention and how we chose to use it that ultimately matters.
Technology Is Deflationary
As technology develops exponentially, it leads to cheaper prices. In other words, technology is deflationary. The cheaper technology is, the more affordable it is and therefore the more people who own in.
There is no better example of how technology decreases prices than than in biology ― specifically, decoding the human genome.
According to estimates, it cost between $5million and $1billion to decode the first human genome which was sequenced in 2000. Now, the human genome can be sequenced for as little as $100, representing an astounding million-fold drop in price. Again, technology is deflationary.
How To Benefit From The Exponential Age
The key to taking advantage of ― and benefiting from ― The Exponential Age can be defined in one word: education. We must take the time to understand new technologies and then develop the skills to maximise their potential.
A defining feature of the human species is its ability to adapt and this ‘skill’ has been no more critical than in today’s world.
The rate of technology is growing ever faster. We have entered a whole new era of human society and social organisation ― what is now commonly being referred to as The Exponential Age.
Our brains are programmed to think linearly which is why humans find it so difficult to comprehend exponential growth. Consequently, the critical factor to navigating successfully through the Exponential Age is to consistently educate ourselves.