When I do mentoring and early stage investing, one obvious thing I look for is that people incorporate a model of the future into their business plans.  All too often we get plans which have this common assumption that the future’s going to be just like today.  Yes, we’ve had a lot of change up until now, but then people’s imagination leaves them and they assume that, five years from now, ten years from now, it’s going to be the same reality. Maybe cell phones will be a little smaller.

I got into this because of my own interest in being an inventor and being able to anticipate where technology would be so I could time my project correctly.  Imagine life without social networks, that’s ancient history.  In fact, you watch the movie, Social Network, and it looks like ancient history, but it’s 2004.

So the world is changing faster and faster.  You can anticipate what things will be like.  This common wisdom, you can’t predict the future, is wrong when it comes to at least these underlying measures.  Very specifically: bits of communication per dollar, or bits of memory per dollar, or base pairs of DNA per dollar, or the number of base pairs sequenced each year, the number of bits for moving around the Internet, the number of bits being moved around wirelessly, the number of bits of data we’re downloading about the brain. These kinds of basic measures follow exquisitely predictable exponential trajectories. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock