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Accelerating Change 2004
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
I am totally jazzed about a conference I will be attending at Stanford this weekend. Accelerating Change 2004 includes sessions with Will Wright, Jim Spohrer, Jaron Lanier, Gordon Bell, Shai Agassi, Dan Gillmor, Brad Templeton, Clark Aldrich, and others. The theme, Physical Space, Virtual Space, and Interface, analyzes the intersection of three monumental trends:
  • Accelerating interconnectivity of the physical world
  • Increasing accuracy of the simulated world
  • Growing intelligence of the human-machine interface.
Why Should You Attend? Accelerating Change promotes high-yield, multidisciplinary, and critical understanding of accelerating technological change in service to personal, executive, and professional development. You'll meet uniquely broad minded, synthetic-thinking practical futurists and change-makers here, and the connections you make will be among the most important, productive, and informative in your life.
Who Should Attend? Anyone with an interest or responsibility for trend tracking, forecasting, investing, competitive intelligence, strategic planning, policy analysis, product development, business development, and change management.
This is right up my alley. The issues around accelerating change are what I was trying to get my arms around in my article on the Business Singularity. Ray Kurzweil, linked from the AC2004 site, expresses the idea a thousand times better than I could:
We're entering an age of acceleration. The models underlying society at every level, which are largely based on a linear model of change, are going to have to be redefined. Because of the explosive power of exponential growth, the 21st century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress at today's rate of progress; organizations have to be able to redefine themselves at a faster and faster pace.

The Law of Accelerating Returns is the acceleration of technology, and the evolutionary growth of the products of an evolutionary process. And this really goes back to the roots of biological evolution.

Evolution works through indirection. You create something and then work through that to create the next stage. And for that reason, the next stage is more powerful, and happens more quickly. And that has been accelerating ever since the dawn of evolution on this planet.

The first stage of evolution took billions of years. DNA was being created and that was very significant because it was like a little computer, and an information processing method to store the results of experiments, and to build up a knowledge base from which it could then launch experiments and codify the results.

The subsequent stages of evolution happened much more quickly.

In the first stage of human-directed technology, it took tens of thousands of years, which is what you would expect for the next stage via the wheel, or stone tools, and that kept accelerating, because when we had stone tools, we could use them to build the next stage. So a thousand years ago a paradigm shift only took a century, like the printing press. And now a paradigm shift, like the World Wide Web, is measured in only a few years’ time. The first computers were built with screwdrivers and were designed with pencil and paper, and today we use computers to create computers. A CAD designer will sit down and specify a few high-level parameters, and 12 different layers of automated designs will be done automatically. The most significant acceleration is in the paradigm shift rate itself, which I think of as the rate of technical progress. And all of these are actually not exponential, but double exponentials because not only does the process accelerate because of our evolution’s ability to use each stage of evolution to build the next stage, but also, as the process, as an area gets higher price performance, more resources get drawn into that capability.

The whole 20th century, because we’ve been speeding up to this point, is equivalent to 20 years of progress at today’s rate of progress, and we’ll make another 20 years of progress at today’s rate of progress equal to the whole 20th century in the next 14 years, and then we’ll do it again in seven years. And because of the explosive power of exponential growth, the 21st century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate of progress, which is a thousand times greater than the 20th century, which was no slouch to change.

Technology-based innovation these days requires collaboration between different disciplines. This is because innovation today typically involves interdisciplinary work. So one thing that you need is experts in each of those areas.
If anyone else is headed to Accel 2004, you may want to book a room nearby. I just reserved a $79 special at the Red Cottage Inn, right up the road in Atherton, about 100' from the Menlo Park border.


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