Currently most people think in a linear fashion. This is simple e.g. 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6… and so on. To graph this is simple, it looks just like a slowly increasing straight line. This kind of thinking tends to be based in logic. If you complete one level you move to the next level, following completion of that next level you move to the next one above, basically one step at a time. This is how we generally understand our world. It is logical, straight forward and makes complete sense. What doesn’t make sense are the exponential thought patterns.
The exponential graph shows a common mathematical principle. For every step you take, you get it to double itself to reach the next point. E.g. 1 – 2 – 4 – 8 – 16 – 32 – 64 … and so on. You can see where this is all going. The graph simply shows a huge upward curve, reaching incredible heights over a short period of time.
Exponential thinking is the intellectualization of the exponential equation. Confused?
Ray Kurzweil has described it as a state of accelerated growth in something, today namely technology and its impact on the world around us as well as our own lives. https://singularityhub.com/2016/04/05/how-to-think-exponentially-and-better-predict-the-future/#sm.0001h4clu9ux3dciqrr20dnu1hoa2
He proposes that we all need to understand what this actually means intellectually as well as in our lives on a daily basis. He believes that the key is to understand this accelerated growth in an intelligent way so as to maximise the opportunity it brings us. But how, if we have only understood logical thinking as a form of comprehension?
In his book The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil describes the exponential world as a place of an accelerating amount of surprises creating totally unexpected changes in areas we could never have imagined. In some respects we could look at the evolution of the world we know from 10,000 years ago, and see, yes, the progress has continued to grow, though initially it went extremely slowly, particularly in the last 100 years it has accelerated more, with the creation of the car, the aeroplane and the computer. But 100 years is a long time, and as humans our life span was perhaps only 50 years old 100 years ago, and now has increased to around 75 years of age, so as human beings we have been able to assimilate the changes as they have been introduced over a period of time, sometimes up to a decade or so. That is until recently.
The changes have occurred over the last 20 years have increased to a point where the changes they have made in our lives in the last 5 years, has been remarkable. This ultimately means that we as human beings are going to have to change our patterns of behavior more frequently and in greater ways each time. The moves in ourselves will become no longer a simple step but a leap across a chasm so vast we cannot intellectually comprehend it. This type of idea requires a shift in how we digest information. This shift demands that we understand the exponential concept of acceleration.
Firstly, we need to understand how in fact this very concept occurs in our life, and this is where the ‘singularity’ concept comes into play.
In the past we used to think of something as belonging to one particular area of life. E.g. a car was considered part of transportation, requiring metal and fuel. There were a few accessories attached but they were fundamentally cosmetic only e.g. the leather seat, the coffee cup holder, the hatch back door. Ultimately the car was only metal and oil. Every product we knew before was narrowed to its field and people built entire business empires around tapering down this area to either monopolize it or become specialized in it. All this was great for business and allowed people who had a strength in this area to take their passion to the sky. This was not a singularity world, this was a very multi-faceted world.
As soon as technology emerged with the internet a level of conversion started to form. One thing became added to another, e.g. the books became digital, phones became smart and did more things than make calls, business interactions were faster with emails and text messages, people could be accessed any time, any place with no delay, and so on. All these things are happening now and have occurred due to convergence. Soon there will be driverless cars, AI’s making customer service calls, and biotechnology may even be able to extend our memories for an infinite amount of time by implanting extensions into our genomes…..meaning aging will become a thing of the past and we could all live forever…..(now I am really going out there!), and the most profound aspect of all is that not only will this all be within our lifetime, but even in the next 5-10 years!
What singularity means here is that no longer will one area be kept in its realm alone, all things that are developed will start to impact another, and work together to collaborate and make something else, that in the process of making that third thing, create a vehicle that could be used for a fourth thing if all those other converging things converged with this one….ultimately meaning that there will be no more multi-faceted separate areas, that all things will eventually be moving towards that ‘one single’ essence.
In this area we are only considering the ‘inventions’. The impact of each invention on each individual then multiplies it exponentially too. That one smart phone user uses the technology to connect with another user, who in turn shares that with another and so on… The sharing part of the exponential growth massively expands the idea to yet another level again. And so it goes on.
Now coming back to the main point. How do we as humans shift ourselves from being linear thinkers to being able to handle exponential thinking.
Here are some suggestions:
- Forget the notion of understanding everything. There will be an increasing amount of processing that you will just have to accept and trust.
- Expect to be surprised and plan accordingly (this is Ray Kurzweil’s most common suggestion). This requires the notion of managing the risk of change. This will be a unique process to every person and must be handled independently by each individual.
- Understand the notion that ‘timing is everything’. To plan for something means you know it is going to happen, the key difference here (because everything will be a surprise), is that timing, once the change has presented itself, requires a new mindset of when to adapt the change in your life. We cannot just digest everything as it comes, we have to allow a mix of when we are ready to digest the change combined with the time of the change. In other words, a subtle shift in when we assimilate information based on the relevance to you the user.
- Realising that not everything will be relevant to you the user. That it is okay to say, ‘though that new invention is truly incredible, that’s not my thing, so I’m not going to waste my time on it’.
- Appreciate and recognize that you are no longer in ‘control’, and that is okay too.
None of these points above are unique in themselves, but what is going to become unique is the constancy of them working altogether at once on an ongoing basis.
If you break down each and every one of these 5 new ways of thinking, they really all end up meaning one simple change. The exponential thinker needs to merely accept that keeping an ‘open mind’ about anything new that presents itself, trusting it and knowing you have the choice to let it into your life if it is relevant, or discarding it if it isn’t, is the ultimate mindset.
In a real world exponential thinking will simply give rise to the internet of everything, where by all things will be directly or indirectly connected.
The key to allowing exponential thinking to override linear thinking is letting an ‘open mind state’ be present at all times, which basically means we will all need to learn to become comfortable with not ‘being constantly in control’ of our thoughts.