5.08.2009

"Accelerating Returns"

The prolific "futurist" Ray Kurzweil, most famous for his fervent support for the hypothesis that desribes an impending "technological singularity"--a theoretical point in time when biological intelligence merges completely with artificial intelligence to create a superintelligence (he also invented the flatbed scanner), recently sat for a Q and A with The New Scientist. Take a look.

Can we outrun our current environmental problems to reach 2045?

Yes. The resources are much greater than they appear. We only have to capture 1 part in 10,000 of the sunlight to get all the energy we need. Nanotechnology is being applied to solar energy collection technology and that is scaling up at an exponential rate. Such new technologies are ultimately very inexpensive because they are subject to the law of accelerating returns.

What do you mean by the law of accelerating returns?

The power of ideas to change the world is accelerating and few people grasp the implications of that fully. People don't think exponentially, yet exponential change applies to anything that involves measuring information content. Take genetic sequencing. When the human genome project was announced in 1990, sceptics said: "No way you're going to do this in 15 years." Halfway through the project the skeptics were still going strong, saying you've only finished 1 per cent of the project. But that's actually right on schedule: by the time you get to 1 per cent you're only seven doublings away.


Talk about glass half-full. Let's hope he's right.

1 comment:

Ian said...

great stuff