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01 February 2017

This Revolution will Be Exponential (by Law)

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To celebrate its 35th anniversary, the magazine Electronics asked a group of experts about their vision of the future. Among them was an expert in integrated circuits (chips). It was 1965 and the author of one of the observations which was published at the time and remains valid today was Gordon Moore. The co-founder of Intel® in 1968 revealed the relevance of integrated circuits for the world economy. He explained in his text how the number of transistors doubled in a processor each year, which in turn resulted in a progressive reduction in costs. Years later the time period increased to two years.

Image: Gordon Moore / Credit:<a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> <strong><em>Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation</em></strong></a> (courtesy of Intel Corp.)
Image: Gordon Moore / Credit: Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (courtesy of Intel Corp.)

“Integrated circuits will lead to wonderful creations such as personal computers, automatic control for vehicles or portable personal communication equipment”, declared the then 34-year-old Gordon Moore. Perhaps Moore had discovered time travel by then, because he was clearly describing the scenario in which we live today: the proliferation of laptops, automatic vehicles and smartphones and wearables that are increasingly accessible (cheaper) and becoming obsolete ever more rapidly.

Maybe Moore didn’t travel to the future, but he did guess what pace we would approach it, at least in terms of computer technology.

The prediction he made at the time became known as “Moore’s Law” (it’s not a mathematical law, but rather a prediction with a numerical reference value) and has served as a reference in the field of technology in analyzing and forecasting the growth and development of certain sectors.

Why my future is exponential

Since the publication of that article, the exponential word has been inevitably linked to the world of technology. Scientific and technological advances have kept up a pace that makes it possible to implement the exponential objective to the development of all industries that have more or less directly to do with computer science. Advances are being made increasingly faster and at lower cost in terms of technological innovation, which in turn implies that the impact and social implications of these developments are also exponential. Since the origins of the first computer, in just a few decades of history, man has gone from dreaming about the computers that Moore described in the ’60s to thinking about quantum computing and neural networks, soft robots, the internet of things and genetic modification as something feasible in the short to medium term.

Moore’s draft notebook in 1964 “Cost vs. Time” / Credit: Fairchild Camera & Instrument Corporation

Opportunities, challenges, risks and threats also become exponential and we have to start looking at the future we face as something very different from our current reality. The transformative power of current technology (let alone what’s to come) is now unpredictable. We can only venture to imagine. We’re experiencing the beginning of a revolution that will make the twenty-first century the most distinct of all ages in the history of our existence; however, before giving the go-ahead, if not the direction, at least the course of the journey on which we are embarking should be analyzed. What risks will we face in the coming decades? What can we expect from the “new human species” that will coexist in an almost imperceptible symbiosis with technology?

A guide to understanding what comes next

In the book “The Next Step: Exponential Life”, 20 authors discuss the implications exponential technologies will have on certain areas of knowledge (biology, finance, artificial intelligence, arts and genetics, among others) and which in turn will become the engine of change in human species and will have social, environmental, political and ontological consequences.

Improving the memory of humans, extending cognitive processes, the length of their lives, their physical abilities, etc. Where are art or the media in that scenario? Will we have to renew the social contract to include robots and future artificial intelligence? Although it’s impossible to answer these questions for certain, this book provides short-term ideas to answer a much more relevant basic question: What can we do so that technological development is in fact oriented to real improvements in people’s lives?

Dory Gascueña for OpenMind


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