February 2012 Archives

Questioning Kurzweil and exponential growth - reviewed

I dont have evidence, just a hunch... but I think Kurzweil has it wrong.  He predicted exponential growth in progress, and the future effects of that projected growth over a decade ago.  The idea of accelerating returns is the driving force behind his predictions.  I believe that on a longer scale, we are on a horizontal asymptote.  The increasing complexity will lead to each step becoming more and more difficult.  For example, many of the breakthroughs in physics, chemistry, electronics, and more... were accomplished or could have been accomplished via a garage tinkerer, or a small lab.  These days the complexities of the frontier require significant expense, expertise, infrastructure, and more to deliver a breakthrough.  The diminished return on  inputs for progress will lead to stagnation in that area.  This isn't a bad thing and certainly wouldn't be applied equally.  

There hasn't been much progress in buggy whip manufacturing in the last century.  And I'm pretty sure the vast majority of the population is perfectly fine with that.  Likewise, at some point computers will reach a level of miniaturization that is "good enough".  Then they will stop shrinking.  Consumers will not pay the premium.  And that effect trickles down.  Same for bandwidth usage,  image resolution, etc.  Take for example the new Nokia 808 Pureview 41 mega pixel camera.  It's amazing.  So amazing that the lens can't handle it.  That might drive lens quality to improve, but its more likely to follow the current course; some marginal improvements in the image quality for a final image size significantly less than 41 MP.  Its cool.  Sure.  But its not a breakthrough.  The march of progress slows, and flows into other things.  

I guess you might say I'm waiting for the paradigm shift.  From desktops to laptops to PDAs, and smart phones and now tablets.  We've come a long way.  Or have we?  



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