TAKE A STAND | At THNK, we take explicit note of that fact that change is becoming harder and harder to anticipate in our ever more complicated world society. In fact, the idea that real change is most often caused by random events is becoming increasingly accepted. What is predictable, however, is the scale of progress of technological development and we can—and should—use this notion to our collective benefit. This is what technological singularity refers to: technological progress represents a quantity that is infinite. Technology will continue to develop exponentially, become extremely fast, will make the future largely unpredictable, and will have an unprecedented impact on the development of our societies. How can we best use the predictability of technological progress to address some of the major challenges facing humanity today?
It is interesting to reflect on the extent to which technology has seemingly quietly permeated our lives during the past ten years. In the year 2000, were you using the internet in a similar way as you do now? Did you have a cell phone? Did it have an internet function? Were you using social networks? How did you play your music while in transit? Information technology has been progressing at a raging pace. Many of us have a hard time keeping up with it in our personal lives, not to mention governments, businesses, world society. Project that thought onto the future and you will have a hunch that it is only about to get even crazier.
"[The exponential progress of information technology] goes on through thick and thin, through war and peace, through boom times and recessions. The Great Depression made not a dent in this exponential progression and we will see the same thing in the economic recession that we are having right now. At least the exponential growth of information technology capability will continue unabated" (Ray Kurzweil, founder of Singularity University).
Information technology grows in an exponential manner, it is not linear. This is the primary distinguishing feature of information technology. What is perhaps most amazing is the predictability of the scale of progress. Information technologies of all kinds double their power (price, performance, capacity, bandwidth) every year. In this way, it is expected that technological progress will become extremely fast and, consequently, will make the future unpredictable and qualitatively different from today. The effects on society will be unmatched in all sorts of ways.
Singularity University takes this idea as its starting point. It aims to assemble, educate and inspire a body of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies in order to address some of the major challenges facing humanity today. With the support of a broad range of leaders in academia, business and government, Singularity University hopes to stimulate groundbreaking, disruptive thinking and solutions aimed at solving some of the planet’s most pressing challenges.
Author of this article: Steffie Verstappen