John von Neumann was a mathematical genius and inventor who lived from 1903
to 1957. (One of his students, Paul Halmos, taught at Indiana
University while I was there getting my math degree. I have an
autographed copy of Halmos’s book, Finite
Dimensional Vector Spaces).
von Neuman was the first person I know to speak of the Singularity.
said, “the ever accelerating progress of technology … gives the
appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of
the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not
continue.” He called the Singularity the moment beyond which
“technological progress will become incomprehensively rapid and
Ray Kurzweil in his 2005 book, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology,
states this will take place around 2045. In
his book he describes exponential growth and why it is so difficult for
people to grasp it. For a very long time it appears to be linear, until
we reach the knee which is
where he says we are now. Then things begin to move very fast.
In the 1980s, for example, many peopel said the Internet would never
amount to much because there were only a few thousand computers
connected and we could never connect more than a few thousand more
every year. What they failed to realize was that the number of
computers was growing exponentially.
At the end of 1995 0.4% of the world population (16 million) people
were using the Internet. 10 years later that number had increased to
15.7% (1,018 million), and today it is estimated to be 41% (almost 3
bilion), says Internet World
And that’s just people. You have no doubt heard of the Internet of Things. According to Cisco, 80+ things are connecting to the Internet
every second. By 2020 that number will grow to over 250 things per
second, yielding a total of 50 billion things – and that number will
continue to grow.
All of this to show how technology continues to grow. But, who cares?
Why is this important?
The rate of innovation we have exprienced over the last 100 years (from
Derigibles and radio to Google) is still pretty much the Slow Takeoff pictured above. Hold
onto your hats, because things will be accelerating in the years ahead.
Get ready for increased disruption, beyond anything we have seen
before. It’s time to learn how to use disruption to your advantage (for
details on that, see my book, Getting Innovation Right).
Where is this heading? To a place where the complexity of technology
and artificial intelligence exceeds human intelligence: the
So, whatever you do in the week ahead, keep abreast of breakthroughs.
They are not interruptions in what is going on, they are what is