The World of 2016

Exponential growth is for Luddites

I dedicate this post to my Roomba, who served me well for four and a half great years. R.I.P., 2011-2016.

Okay, maybe not. But there’s a reason why I trashed my Roomba— it’s outdated. It was outdated when I bought it and it’s worlds outdated today. Every second that passes inches it closer to the Roomba Obsoletion Singularity, the point at which all Roombas are obsolete the moment they’re created.

But I don’t mind, because I didn’t need another Roomba for half of a decade. That one served me well. The same applies to a lot of technology— I recently blogged about how I have a smartphone from 2013, and how I’ll probably keep it until I buy an iPhone 8s Plus, which I’ll then keep until 2026.

It feels good to experience exponential growth. It’s hard to experience it when you’re constantly riding the curve, so making a stop at one point and picking back up some time later is a joyride that can’t be beat.

The same will still be true 13 years from now. Imagine 13 years of exponential growth from where we’re at now. There’s a reason why the World of 2029 posts are increasingly ‘out there’— the more I consider the real nature of the future, the more I realize that I’m badly underestimating the rate of change. When I went into writing The World of 2029: Part One, I was still thinking linearly.

Imagine if this year were 2003, and I was writing about the year 2016. Yeah, there are some things I’ll get wrong, wrong and terribly wrong. But there are other things I might get partially right, except that I wasn’t being creative enough.

Back in 2003, I thought about the future a lot. I oft consider that period in 2003 to be my ‘proto-futurist’ phase of youth. The years that really interested me were 2015 and 3000. Why 2015? I dunno, it just sounded so futuristic to me. What’s more, it’s cute how little difference there was between 2015 and 3000— the year 3000 AD was brighter, taller, and had flying cars, but it was recognizable. The year 2015 had a lot of robots, jetpacks, neon, and some “primitive flying cars.” Mind you, I was 9 years old, so I wasn’t totally aware of all the great changes that had occurred and could occur.

Still, it’s interesting to return to those times and try to wrap my mind around the idea of just how much had actually changed between then and 2015.

The biggest thing was access to the Future. A lot of futurist thinking is predicated upon the idea that the Future will be mostly-evenly distributed. To an extent, this is actually correct: think of smartphones and their prevalence in society. The rich might have snazzy covers and larger storage sizes, but for the most part, a millionaire’s iPhone isn’t very different from my own.

To another extent, it’s totally wrong. Were there robots, jetpacks, and primitive flying cars in 2015? Absolutely. Did everyone have them? Not at all. In fact, only a handful of people altogether had any of the above.

Things get cheaper, as smartphones have, so I’m confident the Future will arrive in the lap of the less fortunate. It’s just that, for now, we have to watch and imagine.

The amount of exponential growth between 2003 and 2015 didn’t seem to be all that great. Towards the end, there was a noticeable curve upwards in progress, but it took a while to get going. Between 2003 and 2010, not much in my daily life changed. I had an iPhone and 7th generation video game consoles, but that was just about it. Never mind the more subtle changes, such as the rise of social media and YouTube.

Compare 2010 to 2015, and I’ll definitely say there was a change. For one, I got a Roomba. I also got a more powerful computer, a much better smartphone, a brand new video game console, and I started using Siri and Cortana. Oh, and then there was this totally nothing drone I got in 2014.

I’ll always use the drone as an example of when the Future hit me and my mother in the face. The thing’s a flying robot. I got a freaking flying robot for Christmas. In 2003, that was the solely the realm of science fiction. My mother? She still can’t get over it. It looks like a flying saucer, which just drives the point home even further.

Now it’s 2016 and I’m already impressed with what I’m seeing, whether it be autonomous manned drones or heavily expanded IoT services. I’ve become used to the overwhelming amount of change because I’ve accepted and embraced it. That makes it easier to see just how much change we’re undergoing and predict how much will occur in the future. Yet I still made the linearist mistake.

So I feel I should spend time talking about where information technology will be in 13 to 14 years. I  can talk about where it’ll be in 4 years all the same. If I use an exponential growth model, things begin making sense.

So expect the World of 2029 posts to get exponentially weirder.

 

Author: Yuli Ban

I'm an aspiring novelist with a terminal lack of a life.

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