The singularity is a concept that was first coined by science fiction writer Vernor Vinge that says that eventually we will reach a point where we make runaway progress, and overnight everything will change.  Progress will go faster and faster and faster for infinity as it were.  Exponential changes are definitely, definitely happening.  The processing power of computers is doubling every 18 months or so.  And even in things like solar power you see that the price of solar power is dropping in half every decade.  So progress is absolutely happening at an astounding rate.

But in nature no exponential progress ever goes on forever.  Everything in nature is not just a straight up.  It’s an S-curve.  It arises for a while until it hits some physical limitation and then it plateaus again.  So we don’t know where we are on this S-curve exactly.  But we do know the top is probably not very close right now.  When we look at some basic numbers about humanity and the planet, we look at the amount of energy available, food, water and so on, those are all actually quite a bit higher than we are.  

So I have great hope that we can continue progress for quite some long time. But eventually in each area progress does slow down a bit.

60 Second Reads is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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