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Accelerating technological change: You ain't seen nothin' yet

Every day I scan hundreds of blog posts, articles and tweets having to do with technology. Included in that scanning is a four- to five-times-a-day viewing of Techmeme, the technology "conversation tracker" that connects key articles and posts with those who've linked to it, enabling you and me to see what the hot stories are at the moment and at a glance.

What's become clear over the last several years is one key shift: The rate of technological change is accelerating. Almost daily there is some key feature announced, a new product or service, or some new insight, which almost instantly makes its way across the Internet and raises the consciousness and awareness levels of those of us paying attention.

The scientist Ray Kurzweil is arguably the #1 thought leader in the area of accelerating change after the publication of his 2005 book, "The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology," and the creation of his subsequent Singularity Conference.

The premise in Kurzweil's book is the coming technological singularity and how we will be able to augment our bodies and minds with technology. He describes the singularity as resulting from a combination of three important technologies of the 21st century: genetics, nanotechnology and robotics (including artificial intelligence).

Having attempted to read the book three times until finally succeeding on my fourth try, it's tough to refute Kurzweil's arguments that we're living not only in a time of accelerating change, but that that change is exponential. That said, there have been several prominent thinkers and scientists who criticize his speculation and approaches.

What does accelerating or exponential change mean to you? Here is Ray Kurzweil telling you about the singularity in less than 7 minutes:

When you consider the technology shifts and changes your great-grandparents, grandparents, parents (and even you) have experienced already, I can only imagine the things we'll see over the next several decades. Hang on to your hats ... it's gonna be a heckuva ride!

NOTE: Because of Minnov8 contributors' own accelerating change-type opportunities, we're focusing our efforts going forward. As such, this is the last in a series of articles provided by Minnov8 to MinnPost. We would like to express our thanks and deep appreciation to Joel Kramer for the chance to participate in their excellent and groundbreaking publication, Don Effenberger for his constant affable manner and flexibility, and to you, the reader, who read our stuff and were willing to comment here and by email.

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Comments (2)

Science fiction being the locus of prophecy that it has become in the 20th and 21st centuries, I can't help but note that our prophets are both offering us great hope and spelling out the possibility of serious damage and destruction.

As in all things, if monetary profit for the very few, with no attention payed to its costs to society and the environment, as is now the case with so much of worldwide business,...

If monetary profit is the only motive of those in charge, it's likely that the darkest of these prophetic tales will come to be our reality.

How can we, in the face of such great technological change, in the face of such wonderful new tools for science, health, and the production of goods, but also for the exploitation and extraction of resources and for making war, ensure that all humanity shares in the good that can be created and that we don't just enter into a new, and highly amusing, high-tech era of "bread and circuses," which are being arranged by the profit mongers to distract us while they ravage the planet and enslave the rest of us?

Maybe, Greg, but I tend to think such technology could spread out technological uses (somewhat like the internet, unless Verizon and some of the other companies get their way) and really help empower all of us. Maybe we need to take a much longer and broader view of this. Great societal and cultural changes will almost certainly be part of this--either set off changes, accelerate them, or something else. Right now, we don't know much about where we're heading. I think the main idea is not to let fear send us scuttling back to 19th century thinking and decision making.