TotD: Ray Kurzweil on Change


Ray Kurzweil, The Sin­gu­lar­i­ty is Near: When Humans Tran­scend Biol­o­gy

Cen­turies ago peo­ple didn’t think that the world was chang­ing at all. Their grand­par­ents had the same lives that they did, and they expect­ed their grand­chil­dren would do the same, and that expec­ta­tion was large­ly ful­filled.

Today it’s an axiom that life is chang­ing and that tech­nol­o­gy is affect­ing the nature of soci­ety. What’s not ful­ly under­stood is that the pace of change is itself accel­er­at­ing, and the last 20 years are not a good guide to the next 20 years. We’re dou­bling the par­a­digm shift rate, the rate of progress, every decade.

The whole 20th cen­tu­ry was like 25 years of change at today’s rate of change. In the next 25 years we’ll make four times the progress you saw in the 20th cen­tu­ry. And we’ll make 20,000 years of progress in the 21st cen­tu­ry, which is almost a thou­sand times more tech­ni­cal change than we saw in the 20th cen­tu­ry.

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TotD: Tipping Points

From The Tip­ping Point by Mal­colm Glad­well:
The Tipping Point

We are actu­al­ly pow­er­ful­ly influ­enced by our sur­round­ings, our imme­di­ate con­text, and the per­son­al­i­ties of those around us. Tak­ing the graf­fi­ti off the walls of New York’s sub­ways turned New York­ers into bet­ter cit­i­zens. Telling sem­i­nar­i­ans to hur­ry turned them into bad cit­i­zens. The sui­cide of a charis­mat­ic young Microne­sian set off an epi­dem­ic of sui­cides that last­ed for a decade. Putting a lit­tle gold box in the cor­ner of a Colum­bia Record Club adver­tise­ment sud­den­ly made record buy­ing by mail seem irre­sistible. To look close­ly at com­plex behav­iors like smok­ing or sui­cide or crime is to appre­ci­ate how sug­gestible we are in the face of what we see and hear, and how acute­ly sen­si­tive we are to even the small­est details of every­day life. That’s why social change is so volatile and so often inex­plic­a­ble, because it is the nature of all of us to be volatile and inex­plic­a­ble.

But if there is dif­fi­cul­ty and volatil­i­ty in the world of the Tip­ping Point, there is a large mea­sure of hope­ful­ness as well. Mere­ly by manip­u­lat­ing the size of a group, we can dra­mat­i­cal­ly improve its recep­tiv­i­ty to new ideas. By tin­ker­ing with the pre­sen­ta­tion of infor­ma­tion, we can sig­nif­i­cant­ly improve its stick­i­ness. Sim­ply by find­ing and reach­ing those few spe­cial peo­ple who hold so much social pow­er, we can shape the course of social epi­demics. In the end, Tip­ping Points are a reaf­fir­ma­tion of the poten­tial for change and the pow­er of intel­li­gent action. Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immov­able, implaca­ble place. It is not. With the slight­est push–in just the right place–it can be tipped.

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