The Law of Accelerating Returns
An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological changeis exponential, contrary to the common-sense "intuitive linear" view. So wewon't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century -- it will be morelike 20,000 years of progress (at today's rate). The "returns," such as chipspeed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There's evenexponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades,machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity-- technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in thefabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological andnonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-highlevels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.
Published on KurzweilAI.net March 7, 2001.
You will get $40 trillion just by reading this essay and understandingwhat it says. For complete details, see below. (It's true that authors will do just about anything to keep your attention, but I'm serious about thisstatement. Until I return to a further explanation, however, do read the firstsentence of this paragraph carefully.) _________________________________________________________
Now back to thefuture: it's widely misunderstood. Our forebearsexpected thefutureto be pretty much like their present, which hadbeen pretty much like their past. Althoughexponential trends did exista thousand years ago, they were at that very early stage where anexponential trendis so flat that it looks like no trend at all. So their lackof expectations was largely fulfilled. Today, in accordance with thecommonwisdom, everyone expects continuous technologicalprogress
and the social repercussions that follow. But thefuturewill be far moresurprising than most observers realize: few have truly internalized theimplications of the fact that the rate of change itself is accelerating.TheIntuitive Linear Viewversus theHistorical Exponential View
Most long range forecasts of technical feasibility infuture time
periods dramatically underestimate the power of future technology
because they are based on what I call the "intuitivelinear" view of technologicalprogressrather than the "historical exponential view." To
express this another way, it is not the case that we willexperienceahundred years of progressin the twenty-first century; rather we willwitness on theorderof twenty thousand years of progress(at
rate of progress, that is).This disparity in outlook comes up frequently in a variety of contexts, for example, the discussion of the ethical issues thatBill Joy
raised in his controversialWIREDcover story,Why The Future Doesn't
Need Us. Bill and I have been frequently paired in a variety of venues aspessimist and optimist respectively. Although I'm expected to criticizeBill's position, and indeed I do take issue with his prescription of relinquishment, I nonetheless usually end up defending Joy on the key