What happens in an exponential world

The world’s population is growing like this:

World Population
Source: Our World in Data

World GDP is growing like this:

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 2.27.00 PM

And GDP per person is growing like this:

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 2.30.36 PM.png

More and more people are getting (and probably will get) educated, to a higher and higher level:

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 2.40.01 PM

Scientific Output is increasing exponentially:

Scientific Output.png

And of course you already know about Moore’s law.

All of this looks good, more GDP, more productivity, and cheaper technology. But it’s more than that. Nassim Taleb states in his colorful book Antifragile:

Abundance is harder for us to handle than scarcity.

So, what are the consequences?

A lot of this information is noise, and thus more and more mechanisms will develop to filter out the noise.

At a basic level, to help people manage the noise at a level of their well-being, mental health products will proliferate. I noted the VC financing trend before, and you can also check how the meditation app Headspace is now a USD 250 M business.  People want to feel well subjectively (because the world is getting better by objective, measurable standards), and apps like Headspace are born.

Another consequence – we will need more specialists. Even if, so to speak, we have all the world’s knowledge on our fingertips, we need someone to tell us which information is the best for us. Of course, this will put burden on people to learn more and more to stay updated with the growing bodies of knowledge. Some people like to say that the internet is the death of experts, but as you can see in the above graphs of years of education and scientific research, the data says that expertise is becoming more and more important. As author Yuval Harari states:

The only way for humans to stay in the game will be to keep learning throughout their lives, and to reinvent themselves repeatedly.

Another important consequence – Machine Learning. We will hand over more and more power to algorithms. They do the heavy lifting of finding out what’s the best for us. Which YouTube videos we want to watch, which search results suit us, which products we may like to buy, which ads we want to see.

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 3.38.46 PM
Google trends data for Machine Learning

But machine learning feeds on data, and since we just don’t want to deal with the deluge of information, we are ready to provide our data to companies like Facebook and Apple, and Amazon. We want convenience. While Kevin Kelley asserts that we are vain, and that vanity trumps privacy, I differ slightly. I think convenience trumps privacy.

Maybe vanity trumps privacy, maybe convenience, but whatever the case, we know for sure that privacy is under severe, severe, threat.

So, what happens when we give away our data for convenience? We are more susceptible to cybercrime. And the next step – more products which handle cybersecurity as this information from CB Insights shows:

Deals and dollars to cybersecurity startups are on track to break records in 2017, with six cybersecurity startups raising $100M+ mega-rounds last quarter.


Yes, cyber-security is becoming more and more important:

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 3.35.00 PM

One could argue that the growing interest in blockchain is also due to a concern with security.

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 3.46.09 PM

As long as information keeps growing, I am pretty confident that products which,

  • Help mental health,
  • Help you become a specialist,
  • Help you with data security,
  • Utilize machine learning to filter information,

Will continue to be made and sold.

What else will this world enable and encourage?

One thought on “What happens in an exponential world

  1. Pingback: Exponential world… not. – Curated Intelligence

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