Where the Linear Crosses the Exponential: Kevin Kelly


Snip from an essay published by Kevin Kelly today over on his Technium blog:

All extropic  systems -- economy, nature and technology -- are governed by self-accelerating feedback cycles. Like compounding interest, or virtuous circles, they are powered by increasing returns. Success breeds success. There is a long tail of incremental build up and then as they keep doubling every cycle, they explode out of invisibility into significance. Extropic systems can also collapse in the same self-accelerating way, one subtraction triggering many other subtractions, so in a vicious cycle the whole system implodes. Our view of the future is warped and blinded by these exponential curves.

But while progress runs on exponential curves, our individual lives proceed in a linear fashion. We live day by day by day. While we might think time flies as we age, it really trickles out steadily. Today will always be more valuable than some day in the future, in large part because we have no guarantee we'll get that extra day. Ditto for civilizations. In linear time, the future is a loss. But because human minds and societies can improve things over time, and compound that improvement in virtuous circles, the future in this dimension is a gain. Therefore long-term thinking entails the confluence of the linear and the exponential. The linear march of our time intersects the cascading rise and fall of numerous self-amplifying exponential forces. Generations, too, proceed in a linear sequence. They advance steadily one after another while pushed by the compounding cycles of exponential change.

Balancing that point where the linear crosses the exponential is what long-term thinking should be about.

Where the Linear Crosses the Exponential [Kevin Kelly]
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