21st Century Thinking: Exponential Grwoth

It is surprising what can happen when we have more time to think. Matt Ridley makes this point in his TED talk. Life has gotten easier for most of us in the 20th century, and this has given us more leisure time. The result is an explosion in creativity.  Sir Kenneth Clark makes the same point in this Civilisation series. For civilisation ot make a step forward, he said, there must be a modicum of wealth that frees the mind.

Well, we can expect life to become easier still for our children. In turn, this means that they will likely be far more creative than we are. But what does that mean? How will it be manifested? One way to think about it is to understand the difference between linear and exponential growth curves.

Linear growth curves are what we expect from gradual improvements in how we do things. We step up and up and up, gradually and predictably. Exponential growth curves look flat at first — as if there is no improvement. And then they suddenly shoot up.

Exponential growth occurs when “positive feedback loops” multiply what is possible in ways that could not be predicted. Think of these positive feedback loops as opening the door to new dimensions of thinking and doing. Like when a new tool is invented and first put to use.

Again – at first, it seems like nothing is happening. Then suddenly Boom! And we can expect a lot of this to happen in this very interesting century.



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