Ray Kurzweil Explains The Law Of Accelerating Returns

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ray Kurzweil
Ray Kurzweil
Speaking at this year's WOBI conference, Ray Kurzweil explained the predictable trajectories of information technology due to the Law of Accelerating Returns.
Speaking at this year's World Of  Business Ideas (WOBI) conference, Ray Kurzweil, author of The Singularity Is Near, explained how he uncovered the Law of Accelerating Returns.

According to Kurzweil, a series of observations can be laid into what he coined, the law of accelerating returns as follows:
  • -Evolution applies positive feedback in that the more capable methods resulting from one stage of evolutionary progress are used to create the next stage. As a result, the
  • -rate of progress of an evolutionary process increases exponentially over time. Over time, the “order” of the information embedded in the evolutionary process (i.e., the measure of how well the information fits a purpose, which in evolution is survival) increases.
  • -A correlate of the above observation is that the “returns” of an evolutionary process (e.g., the speed, cost-effectiveness, or overall “power” of a process) increase exponentially over time.
  • -In another positive feedback loop, as a particular evolutionary process (e.g., computation) becomes more effective (e.g., cost effective), greater resources are deployed toward the further progress of that process. This results in a second level of exponential growth (i.e., the rate of exponential growth itself grows exponentially).
  • -Biological evolution is one such evolutionary process.
  • -Technological evolution is another such evolutionary process. Indeed, the emergence of the first technology creating species resulted in the new evolutionary process of technology. Therefore, technological evolution is an outgrowth of–and a continuation of–biological evolution.
  • -A specific paradigm (a method or approach to solving a problem, e.g., shrinking transistors on an integrated circuit as an approach to making more powerful computers) provides exponential growth until the method exhausts its potential. When this happens, a paradigm shift (i.e., a fundamental change in the approach) occurs, which enables exponential growth to continue.

Consider the following: try to reach the number 30 first thinking linearly (1, 2, 3, 4, 5…) and then thinking exponentially (1, 2, 4, 8…). In which scenario do you arrive at 30 faster?  Now apply this concept to information technology. Inventor and futurist, Kurzweil has in the past applied a similar strategy to technological development in order to predict the World Wide Web, as well as the widespread use of mobile devices. In the following video he explains the predictable trajectories of information technology.


By 33rd SquareSubscribe to 33rd Square