Predicting the Future and Exponential Growth

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“How many times would I have to fold a sheet of paper for the height of the folded paper to reach the moon?”

Human beings have terrible intuition for exponential growth. If I asked you how many times you would have to fold a single sheet of US Letter paper to reach the moon, it would be difficult to intuitively comprehend that it only takes twenty folds to reach Mount Everest, forty-two folds to the moon, and fifty to reach the sun.

Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.” –Albert Einstein

Often times when looking at the future, we use the projection of the past to predict the outcome of the future. This suggestion is generally not understood properly as due to the natural linearity of time, people are more likely to look at the next five years assuming the growth will march linearly like the past five years.

The truth is that even from the last five years to now, growth particularly technological growth is never linear and is always exponential.

The Apollo Guidance Computer, for example, was built of 4100 integrated circuits, each of which was a 3 input gate for a total of approximately 12,300 transistors – having its performance clocking in at 41.6 instructions per second.

An iPhone 6 has 3.36 billion instructions per second meaning an iPhone 6 is 80 million times faster than Apollo on just instructions per second and around 120 million times faster than the guidance computer that put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon. A single iPhone 6 could theoretically guide 120 million Apollo rockets at the same time (an iPhone 6S is 70% faster than an iPhone 6). This also doesn’t include the fact that a 64 bit processor can use less operations to process more complex computations – so 120 million times faster is definitely an understatement.

So how can we explain this type of growth?



FiveWordsForTheFuture - Nov 5, 2017 | Future, Future, Innovation, Visions
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