The Joys of Exponential Technology

The key vocabulary for today? Linear vs. Exponential.


Still, the outworking of Moore’s Law – due to end at about 2020, but it’s been pushed ahead more than once – is the primary driving force in our civilization, and commands respect.

On the dark side, there is the ex-human environment discussed in Bill Joy’s Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us, which is briefly touched on in Wikipedia.

Kevin Kelly, the editor of Wired magazine, discusses Moore’s Law in some detail on his website.

The first thing to notice is that all these examples demonstrate the effects of scaling down, or working with the small. In this microcosmic realm energy is not very important. We don’t see exponential improvement in efforts to scale up, to keep getting bigger, skyscrapers and space stations. Airplanes aren’t getting bigger, flying faster, and more fuel efficient at an exponential rate. Gordon Moore jokes that if the technology of air travel experienced the same kind of progress as Intel chips, a modern day commercial aircraft would cost $500, circle the earth in 20 minutes, and only use five gallons of fuel for the trip. However, the plane would only be the size of a shoebox! We don’t see a Moore’s Law-type of progress at work while scaling up because energy needs scale up just as fast, and energy is a major limited constraint, unlike information. So our entire new economy is built around technologies that scale down well — photons, electrons, bits, pixels, frequencies, and genes. As these inventions miniaturize, they reach closer to bare atoms, raw bits, and the essence of matter and information. And so the fixed and inevitable path of their progress derives from this elemental essence.

It’s worth your time to go to his site, and read the whole thing.

And finally, a cool presentation on what could be possible in 2030 – well within the lifetimes of many of the readers here – is presented below:


The future is going to look really powerful – for good, and for ill. But it will be a very different place than the Traveller universe of the 1970s.

But perhaps, at that time I will be able to put up s skeleton of a 3D artificial universe based on Stellar Reaches, and pay for AI algorithums to detail it. Hmmm…

About Alvin Plummer

I'm working to build a better world, a world that blesses Christ and is blessed by Him. I hope that you're doing the same!
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