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


Exponential: How Accelerating Technological innovation is Leaving Us Driving and What to Do About It • By Azeem Azhar • Random Property Business enterprise • 352 web pages • ISBN 978-one-847-94290-six • £20   

For the last couple of yrs, coronavirus has been instructing a master class on exponential progress: from January 2020, when 100 scenarios in China led the WHO to get in touch with a community wellbeing unexpected emergency, to nowadays, when there have been over 239 million scenarios around the world. 

Ahead of that, as persons have begun to forget about, exponential progress was probably finest recognised as the key guiding the rise of computer systems. Moore’s Law — the observation created by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that the variety of transistors on an integrated chip doubles approximately each individual two yrs — is the motive the smartphone in your pocket is extra than a thousand occasions extra highly effective than the largest computer systems fifty yrs in the past, which only governments and substantial organisations could pay for.  

The exponential progress of pc electrical power led the inventor Ray Kurzweil to suggest the Law of Accelerating Returns and predict that by 2045 machine intelligence will move that of people — a.k.a. the Singularity. 

In Exponential: How Accelerating Technological innovation is Leaving Us Driving and What to Do About It, Azeem Azhar commences with the perception that Kurzweil’s take was as well narrow and that exponential progress is using area in no a lot less than four converging sectors: computing, electricity, biology, and producing.  

In electricity, the price tag of renewables is plummeting. In biology, the price tag of genome sequencing is performing the identical. The initially human genome took 13 yrs and $three billion nowadays any one can get theirs finished for $200 in a couple of days and rapid sequencing was aspect of why we bought COVID vaccines so before long. In producing, 3D printing is fast improving upon, and gives fully new prospects for creating anything from buildings to organs. 

Taken alongside one another, the globe we’re hurtling into will seem quite distinct. Azhar credits Kurzweil for recognising that the largest contributor to our perception that it truly is ‘accelerating’ is the parallel progress and conversation of distinct technologies. The result, Azhar writes, is an “exponential hole” that is opening up in between our being familiar with of our globe, which updates gradually, and the arriving technologies, which modify quicker than we can cope with. 

In this e book, and in the Exponential View podcast and newsletter that preceded it, Azhar, who has been a journalist, a several enterprise founder, and a enterprise capitalist, says he wishes to straddle CP Snow’s Two Cultures — art and science — in order to recognize the effect of all these new technologies on culture.  

To fulfil this ambition, he initially explores the four accelerating sectors, and then discusses their influence on the conversation in between politics and the financial state. Azhar then considers the effect on the romantic relationship in between the citizen and culture – and concludes by producing strategies for broad concepts that can manual us via the period transition, and setting four prescriptions for the street ahead: transparency, openness, interoperability, and electronic legal rights. 

SEE: Report finds startling disinterest in ethical, accountable use of AI amongst company leaders

The concepts Azhar proposes are broad: we require to develop resilience and overall flexibility we require to rethink our conceptions of the nature of monopoly, and the romantic relationship in between workers and businesses and we require to recognize the changing electrical power relationships in between metropolitan areas, locations, and nations. Above all, we require to try to remember that technology is a force we can immediate. 

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