One of the great challenges to the human mind in the age of technology, and AI and Moore’s law, is the ability to see things change exponentially.
Moore’s law, in various forms, posits that technology (in any form) will double in speed, and cost 1/2 as much, every 2 years.
Whether or not Moore’s law will continue has been fiercely debated, with most “experts” saying it cannot possibly continue, only to be proven wrong again and again.
So why do experts keep getting it wrong?
Much of it comes down to the human mind really struggling to comprehend exponential growth. The challenge is the curve stays super flat for a really long time right until one of the doubling moments is meaningful, and then the next and the next doubles are astronomically large. It is at that moment that people are in awe, but then it becomes the norm.
Take digital photography. The first cameras, many pioneered by Kodak by the way, were laughed out of the room. Many wondered who would even want digital when you didn’t get a copy to keep in a book, or sticky stack of papers. Early images were $100k, then $50k, then $25k… following the Moore’s Law curve, but obviously the adoption was very minimal. But then it was $2000 for a camera, then $1000, then $500, $250… even still adoption wasn’t great… but then it was a penny, then half a penny, then as storage got cheaper, essentially free. All the while camera quality is doubling every two years, where today if you own a newer smartphone, you can produce images and video with better quality than $100,000 Hollywood cameras of 25 years ago! In your pocket!! But we still don’t even see it…
I thought about all this today after spending 45 minutes addressing a group of EO members in Nairobi, Kenya. I talked about how to find Rembrandts in the Attic, as part of an all-day session centered on exit strategy. There is nothing revolutionary about giving a talk to an EO group, even one in Africa, as meetings like this have been happening for decades. Air travel has been around for decades, video conferencing as well, and international long distance, and telecom, and all of it has been around a really long time.
So what’s the big deal?
The big deal is, 20 years ago to do what I did today would have taken at least 3 flights and an all-in week of my time to give the 45-minute talk. Ten years ago I probably could have done what I did today in a board room at a large company office with $65,000 worth of Cisco equipment, and a $1000 an hour dedicated connection. Seven years ago, a little cheaper, maybe $25k of equipment and $500 an hour. Five years ago less expensive but with dedicated IT resources on both ends. Even 3 years ago, before COVID, at least one side with an IT resource on standby, and 30 minutes ahead of time testing, and configuring, and stress…
This morning, I rolled out of bed at 6:45am for a 7:15am “sound check”, which consisted of me and the guy hosting the event in Kenya during their lunch break. And the most important equipment we were checking was the $35 lav mic he was wearing to make sure I could hear him. There was no IT, no dedicated connection, no lag at all, no echo, super clear video and the cost to both sides?? Free. Minus maybe a Zoom subscription, but otherwise FREE!!! There was an entire criminal underground 10 years ago that would steal long distance calling cards and run elaborate scams to make free international calls that JUST 10 YEARS AGO cost $1, or $2 or $3 a minute!!! Fast forward to today, and I put on a golf shirt over pajama pants and gave a talk to 55 people in Kenya!! For FREE, with perfect quality and no professional staff.
But because we don’t see exponential growth curves it just seemed like normal course. That’s just how things work today, but think of all that transpired in 25, 10, and even 5 years to get to today. Truly remarkable!
The take away for me is really thinking about how we can become more in tune with exponential growth curves, and how do we use that knowledge to make better decisions day in and day out.
Not all tech scales, and there are always winners and losers (Facebook and Myspace, Zoom and Cisco, etc.) but if we just think a little differently we can see where the puck is going, as “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky made so popular!
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