Exponential, book review: Technology acceleration and its impact on society

Nancy J. Delong


Exponential: How Accelerating Technological innovation is Leaving Us Powering and What to Do About It • By Azeem Azhar • Random House Small business • 352 pages • ISBN 978-1-847-94290-six • £20   

For the last couple of years, coronavirus has been training a master class on exponential growth: from January 2020, when a hundred cases in China led the WHO to get in touch with a public wellbeing emergency, to now, when there have been over 239 million cases around the globe. 

Just before that, as men and women have begun to overlook, exponential growth was possibly greatest recognised as the key powering the increase of computers. Moore’s Law — the observation created by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that the quantity of transistors on an integrated chip doubles approximately each individual two years — is the cause the smartphone in your pocket is much more than a thousand moments much more highly effective than the most important computers 50 years back, which only governments and substantial organisations could pay for.  

The exponential growth of pc electricity led the inventor Ray Kurzweil to propose the Law of Accelerating Returns and forecast that by 2045 machine intelligence will go that of individuals — a.k.a. the Singularity. 

In Exponential: How Accelerating Technological innovation is Leaving Us Powering and What to Do About It, Azeem Azhar starts with the notion that Kurzweil’s acquire was too narrow and that exponential growth is getting location in no fewer than 4 converging sectors: computing, strength, biology, and producing.  

In strength, the cost of renewables is plummeting. In biology, the cost of genome sequencing is performing the same. The first human genome took 13 years and $three billion now everyone can get theirs performed for $200 in a handful of days and speedy sequencing was section of why we received COVID vaccines so shortly. In producing, 3D printing is quickly increasing, and gives entirely new choices for building almost everything from structures to organs. 

Taken collectively, the entire world we’re hurtling into will search fairly distinct. Azhar credits Kurzweil for recognising that the most important contributor to our notion that it is really ‘accelerating’ is the parallel enhancement and conversation of distinct systems. The consequence, Azhar writes, is an “exponential gap” that is opening up involving our understanding of our entire world, which updates slowly, and the arriving systems, which modify more rapidly than we can cope with. 

In this e-book, and in the Exponential View podcast and e-newsletter that preceded it, Azhar, who has been a journalist, a a number of company founder, and a enterprise capitalist, claims he desires to straddle CP Snow’s Two Cultures — art and science — in purchase to comprehend the impression of all these new systems on modern society.  

To fulfil this ambition, he first explores the 4 accelerating sectors, and then discusses their influence on the conversation involving politics and the financial state. Azhar then considers the impression on the connection involving the citizen and modern society – and concludes by generating recommendations for broad principles that can guideline us by means of the section transition, and location 4 prescriptions for the street in advance: transparency, openness, interoperability, and electronic legal rights. 

SEE: Report finds startling disinterest in moral, dependable use of AI between small business leaders

The principles Azhar proposes are broad: we require to develop resilience and versatility we require to rethink our conceptions of the nature of monopoly, and the connection involving workers and businesses and we require to comprehend the modifying electricity interactions involving metropolitan areas, areas, and nations. Higher than all, we require to keep in mind that know-how is a power we can immediate. 

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