It was the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who first said, The only thing that is constant is change.
He was onto something. But even he would likely be left speechless at the scale and pace of change the world has experienced in the past 100 yearsnot to mention the past 10.
Since 1917, the global population has gone from 1.9 billion people to 7.5 billion. Life expectancyhas more than doubled in many developing countries and risen significantly in developed countries. In 1917 only eight percent of homes had phonesin the form of landline telephoneswhile today more than seven in 10 Americans own a smartphoneaka, a supercomputer that fits in their pockets.
And things arent going to slow down anytime soon. In a talk at Singularity Universitys Global Summit this week in San Francisco, SU cofounder and chairman Peter Diamandis told the audience, Tomorrows speed of change will make today look like were crawling. He then shared his point of view about some of the most important factors driving this accelerating change.
In 1965, Gordon Moore (cofounder of Intel) predicted computer chips would double in power and halve in cost every 18 to 24 months. What became known as Moores Law turned out to be accurate, and today affordable computer chips contain a billion or more transistors spaced just nanometers apart.
That means computers can do exponentially more calculations per second than they could thirty, twenty, or ten years agoand at a dramatically lower cost. This in turn means we can generate a lot more information, and use computers for all kinds of applications they wouldnt have been able to handle in the past (like diagnosing rare forms of cancer, for example).
Increased computing power is the basis for a myriad of technological advances, which themselves are converging in ways we couldnt have imagined a couple decades ago. As new technologies advance, the interactions between various subsets of those technologies create new opportunities that accelerate the pace of change much more than any single technology can on its own.
A breakthrough in biotechnology, for example, might spring from a crucial development in artificial intelligence. An advance in solar energy could come about by applying concepts from nanotechnology.
Technology is becoming more accessible even to the most non-techy among us. The internet was once the domain of scientists and coders, but these days anyone can make their own web page, and browsers make those pages easily searchable. Now, interfaces are opening up areas like robotics or 3D printing.
As Diamandis put it, You dont need to know how to code to 3D print an attachment for your phone. Were going from mind to materialization, from intentionality to implication.
Artificial intelligence is what Diamandis calls the ultimate interface moment, enabling everyone who can speak their mind to connect and leverage exponential technologies.
Today there are about three billion people around the world connected to the internetthats up from 1.8 billion in 2010. But projections show that by 2025 there will be eight billion people connected. This is thanks to a race between tech billionaires to wrap the Earth in internet; Elon Musks SpaceX has plans to launch a network of 4,425 satellites to get the job done, while Googles Project Loon is using giant polyethylene balloons for the task.
These projects will enable five billion new minds to come online, and those minds will have access to exponential technologies via interface moments.
Diamandis predicts that after we establish a 5G network with speeds of 10100 Gbps, a proliferation of sensors will follow, to the point that therell be around 100,000 sensors per city block. These sensors will be equipped with the most advanced AI, and the combination of these two will yield an incredible amount of knowledge.
By 2030 were heading towards 100 trillion sensors, Diamandis said. Were heading towards a world in which were going to be able to know anything we want, anywhere we want, anytime we want. He added that tens of thousands of drones will hover over every major city.
If you think theres an arms race going on for AI, theres also one for HIhuman intelligence, Diamandis said. He explained that if a genius was born in a remote village 100 years ago, he or she would likely not have been able to gain access to the resources needed to put his or her gifts to widely productive use. But thats about to change.
Private companies as well as military programs are working on brain-machine interfaces, with the ultimate aim of uploading the human mind. The focus in the future will be on increasing intelligence of individuals as well as companies and even countries.
A final crucial factor driving mass acceleration is the increase in wealth concentration. Were living in a time when theres more wealth in the hands of private individuals, and theyre willing to take bigger risks than ever before, Diamandis said. Billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates are putting millions of dollars towards philanthropic causes that will benefit not only themselves, but humanity at large.
One of the biggest implications of the rate at which the world is changing, Diamandis said, is that the cost of everything is trending towards zero. We are heading towards abundance, and the evidence lies in the reduction of extreme poverty weve already seen and will continue to see at an even more rapid rate.
Listening to Diamandis optimism, its hard not to find it contagious.
The world is becoming better at an extraordinary rate, he said, pointing out the rises in literacy, democracy, vaccinations, and life expectancy, and the concurrent decreases in child mortality, birth rate, and poverty.
Were alive during a pivotal time in human history, he concluded. There is nothing we dont have access to.
Stock Media provided by seanpavonephoto / Pond5
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