Exponential Trends: Which ones are about to launch?

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

(Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash)

This week we're looking at just one article - 'Gradually, Then Suddenly'. It explores at how our world is changing, and how exponential technologies and trends tend to make small, incremental steps and improvements, before launching onto the world stage from seemingly out of nowhere.

Written by Tim O'Reilly, the article looks at a series of different technologies that are on his mind, and right at the tipping point of the exponential curve, ready to transform our world. They are:

1. AI and Algorithms - they're already everywhere, but they will soon partner with humans in almost every aspect of our lives. Amazon can't run its global supply chain without AI, and we'll soon live in a world in which most of our decisions will be guided by machines. Think lifestyle recommendations based on weather, style, price, interest - all according to your specific needs and wants.

2. A lack of infrastructure allows exponential technologies to be implemented. Think mobile payments in China, and drones in Africa. The developed world's infrastructure can be a disadvantage when it comes to new technology.

3. Africa - it's going to be huge, largely thanks to Chinese investment. China is positioning to race past America in global influence and power.

4. Agriculture. From robotic, super-efficient farming to meatless meats, there's huge potential to improve yields and feed the world's growing population while reducing water use and environmental harm. Did you know that the Netherlands is the world's second-largest food exporter in the world? I didn't either, and it demonstrates what's possible.

5. Climate Change. It's already happening, and we have about ten years to put the brakes on and try to reverse it, or at least not make it any worse. Could climate change trigger the collapse of our civilisation? Read Jared Diamond's 'Collapse' to get an insight.

6. Gene Sequencing. Doctors are using HUV gene therapy to cure babies born with rare, previously incurable diseases. Bacterial dyes instead of chemicals? Individually-designed precision medicines? It's all on the way.

7. Neutral Interfaces. Humans interacting directly with computers through brain and nerve signals. We (or our grandchildren) will eventually integrate physically with machines, and the technology has the potential to powerfully augment and advance human ability in some areas.

8. Online Learning. Not traditionally-structured courses online, but intelligent learning on demand as-needed.

9. Government. Things are going to change so rapidly, governments may be unable to keep up, resulting in the collapse or irrelevance of our public institutions. These are essential: infrastructure, rule of law, protection of citizens, public services - they must not be allowed to fail, because if they do the social contract and society won't be far behind.

The article finishes on an optimistic note, by reminding us that the future is up to us, and that no one outcome for humanity, positive or negative, is certain. O'Reilly very much sees the potential of technology and humans in terms of augmentation, and firmly believes that humanity has the ability to choose a bright future for itself.

Thank you for joining us this week. We welcome any and all feedback and comments, and please contact me with any questions or suggestions you have.


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