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Technology's Explosion: The exponential growth rate

Technology's Explosion: The exponential growth rate

Posted Jan 22, 2013 by: Ryan Barton, President
Technology is innovating and expanding at an exponential rate. It’s difficult to grasp how dramatic is the growth of 2 x 2 x 2 x 2…  

There is an ancient Persian tale of the inventor of the game of chess.  When the ruler of the land was presented with the chessboard he was so pleased, he offered a gift.  Upon reflection, the inventor asked for rice. He put a single grain of rice on the first square, and his request was simple:  he asked that the rice double for each square.  The emperor readily agreed, believing he had gotten off easy.

The net result?  For the final square alone, the king owed 2 to the 64th power, or 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 grains of rice.  The entire country’s wealth was forfeit to keep the promise.

Those familiar with technology often refer to “Moore’s Law” – so named for the Intel co-founder Gordon Moore who postulated it in 1965.  He predicted that transistors on processors (used for processing power) would double every two years.  Many predicted this would be a short-term law and could not continue for long.  Yet nearly 50 years later, it is continuing.  

Exponential growth.

The smartphone in your pocket provides a better communication tool than the President of the United States had access to just 25 years ago, and provides access to more data than he had access to just 10 years ago.

Technology impacts the shape of our lives – it influences the people we stay in contact with, the people we date (and marry), the type of information we consume, the way we consume it, and what we do with it.  

What do the next 50 years hold?  One can only imagine what exponential technology growth will do to the field of personalized medicine, to the clean water shortages of Africa, and to businesses in America.  Technology’s exponential growth rate means we are now accomplishing in one year what took centuries in ancient history.  The degree of innovation that is occurring – even at this moment as you read this article – is truly staggering.

We are truly in the midst of an explosion of technology.

For those of us tasked with running an organization, it can be daunting, even overwhelming, to consider all the technology available today – to say nothing of what’s coming tomorrow.  It’s easy to be too conservative. It’s also easy to focus on new innovations and neglect the important fundamentals.

The question to ask is: Are you taking active steps to harness the staggering power of technology?  Are you budgeting for innovation?  Are you asking questions and exploring ways to disrupt “business as usual” through new technology?  Are you paying attention to the foundation and solidifying your current technology, to be able to grow?  Are you having the conversation, pursuing the knowledge, and doing what you can to position your organization to ride the growth of technology?

Exponential growth.  It’s scary, and it’s exhilarating.


If you’re interested in more reading on the topic of growth and the change-agent of technology, I recommend the book Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think. It’s a positive, alternative look to the future, taking into account technology's growth.  For something more in-depth, consider Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. It reads like science fiction and is easy to dismiss – until you realize how startlingly accurate Kurzweil’s predictions have been over the last 20 years.