Three Reasons You Should Read That Column I Wrote On Exponential Technologies

You know that thing that happens when you buy a new car, and then you see that car everywhere?

This is kind of like that.

Three weeks ago, I wrote a column about exponential technologies. I looked at the way that any industry built on information will follow a price-performance curve that roughly doubles every year, at the fact that we’re starting to reach inflection points on technologies ranging from artificial intelligence to bioengineering, and how all of these technologies are now starting to converge.

Since then, nearly every headline I see reinforces this proposition.

Take, for example, the announcement by personal genome sequencers 23andMe that they’re going to move from selling data to inventing medicines. They have so much data now, and their ability to interpret is getting so much better, that it’s time to stop supplying the big boys and instead become one.



That development followed closely on the heels of Apple’s launch of ResearchKit, which allows anyone with an iPhone to offer their data to large-scale clinical trials -- people with Parkinson’s, for example, can track their symptoms via their phones and submit that data to be used in Parkinson’s research.

Get ready: exponential improvements in low-cost gene sequencing, plus exponential improvements in machine learning and big data analysis, plus exponential improvements in smartphone capabilities and penetration, equal a revolution in personalized medicine.

Or take Joseph DeSimone, who took to the TED stage last week to reveal his CLIP 3D printing technology. Up until now, 3D printing has really just been 2D printing over and over, using flat layers to construct a 3D object. But the CLIP process, modeled on the T1000 from “Terminator 2,” creates 3D objects that emerge, fully formed, from a liquid soup. It’s 25 to 100 times faster than current 3D printing technology; the next iteration, says DeSimone, will be 1,000 times faster.

Of course it’s 25 to 100 times faster, instead of 6% faster. Of course the next iteration will be 1,000 times faster. This is what exponential progress looks like.

Meanwhile, companies like Authentise are providing a secure platform so that designers can access distributed manufacturing while retaining their IP. Via Authentise, people can get 3D objects streamed directly to their printers, without the customer ever seeing the raw file.

Get ready: exponential improvements in 3D printing, plus enhanced business models and ecosystem services, equal a revolution in distributed manufacturing.

And, of course, we have to include Tesla here. After all, what article about exponential technologies would be complete without a nod to Elon Musk? Last week, Musk announced that a push update to the Model S sedans within the next three months will allow for autopilot mode on the highway. In other words, the more than 50,000 Teslas already on the road will gain the ability, overnight, to operate autonomously. While there are legal issues associated with this, it seems only a matter of time until they’re overcome.

Get ready: exponential improvements in driverless car technology, plus the ability to push distribute to a significant customer base, equals a transportation revolution.

So I challenge you. Over the next week, as you watch the news, spot tidbits online, and peruse Facebook, look for other examples of these technologies. See if you can spot the ways the exponential revolution is converging and accelerating. See if you can tell what this is going to mean for your industry, for your company, for your career.

I have a feeling that if you’re not out in front of this wave, you’ll be drowned by it.

1 comment about "Three Reasons You Should Read That Column I Wrote On Exponential Technologies".
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  1. Rick Monihan from None, March 27, 2015 at 12:44 p.m.

    As the old "increasing returns to scale" model points out, there are moments in the growth of industry(ies) when great leaps forward are made. It flies in the face of the old model of "diminishing returns", which is determined by the maturity of an industry.

    Exponential leaps are not uncommon or unusual.

    But by the same token, simply giving oneself over to claims of exponential gains can create a huge gap. How many companies were bought and sold in the first bubble based on the claims of exponential growth that had yet to be backed up by a business model supporting what they had to offer?

    This isn't to say any of these claims are false or fake - some (perhaps many) will be true, just as many were in the first dot com bubble. But jumping aboard too early can undo a business. Better to be a fast follower than a first mover. The old Reagan saw "Trust, but verify" is a useful tool in this space.

    Sometimes we move too fast because we want to believe too much.

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