Tuesday, November 17, 2009

20,000 Years of Change Will Occur in the 21st Century

How is this possible? According to Ray Kurzweil, the answer is exponential growth, as seen in the hockey stick graph below. We are naturally inclined to "see" our future from a linear perspective. That is, we use the last fifty years as a model for the next fifty years. We overlook the exponential pace of change...the explosive nature of exponential growth. This alters our ability, significantly, to perceive things accurately.

Dr. Chris Martenson gives an excellent crash course online, explaining our economy and the major changes that are just beginning to take place. I tried to consolidate an example of exponential growth into picture form (above) from the one Chris Martenson offers from his chapter on, Exponential Growth.

Unlike compound interest, exponential growth, as Martenson points out, does not equal prosperity. When we chart world population, oil consumption, money creation (hyper inflation), debt, species extinction, etc. we can see how explosive growth translates to lower our standard of living.

However, as we transition from a past characterized by small population, low level of technology, energy consumption, etc., to a future where population, level of technology and energy consumption is beginning to explode, it's important to keep in mind that when evolution creates a capability or generation of technology, it then uses that capability to evolve the next stage. In other words it exponentially accelerates the tools and/or the rate at which we become proficient to deal with the more "pathological" escalation that would interfere with our standard of living.

The runaway acceleration of technology is a clear example of exponential progression, as information technology has already deeply embedded itself in almost all of our activity so much so, that it's hard to imagine how we managed without it. Peak oil is a good example of how the exponential growth of consumption of this nonrenewable resource could lead to catastrophic results. However, all that means is that one paradigm for energy has reached its limit...hit a wall. It does NOT mean the end of energy. Once we see the end of the road one paradigm, it motivates researchers to create the next paradigm. It's very likely that the evolution of our capabilities will solve the energy consumption problem, perhaps by using the inexhaustible source of energy, sunshine.

Take our latest financial crisis as an example. This is not a problem of exponential growth or evolution, but society's mismanagement and refusal to direct the path of that growth. Instead of channeling the exponential progression of our financial sector in ways that would benefit humanity, we chose to "regulate" it to benefit the greedy, hoping one day we would also benefit, after all, this is America where anything is possible.

Now, even the greedy recipients may not even prosper, and we, the people, will instead of one day reaping the benefit, will end up paying the ultimate price. Remember, we voted in these greedmeisters, we looked the other way, we immersed ourselves in the distractions they created for us to forward their own agenda, we immersed ourselves in the lives of the rich and famous, and lastly, we agreed to let those either without good fortune (sick and the poor), or those designated as "misfits" (gays, other minorities and other countries) to serve as scapegoats. Are we not just as guilty as they?

Our problem is not due to a lack of technology, energy, material resources, knowledge etc. Rather it's due to the unwillingness to examine our predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize how we function as a society and the rigidity to let go of outdated or destructive paradigms.

Albert Einstein said, "The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest."

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function."
-- Dr. Albert Bartlett


walking on sunshine,  15:20  

Regarding the sunshine part of your post... if we learn how to capture 1% of 1% of the sunlight that falls on the earth we could meet all of our energy needs!

Once we perfect nano engineering in about 15-20 years...good-bye oil, hello sunshine!

Anonymous,  09:17  

That's cool. Not that I'd want to be stuck at the top of the stadium.

Roth's stepchild 23:07  

That's amazing. Now, if we could just figure out how to harness it.

Thanks for your comment!

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