What is the Law of Accelerating Returns?
The law of accelerating returns revolves around the continuous changes in the world of technology and tries to predict future advancements and their impact. Coined by Ray Kurzweil, the law states that several technological progresses are exponential, resulting into exponential returns, which include chip speed and cost effectiveness. From history, it is evident that technology changes exponentially, contrasting intuitive linear change. Based on this approach, in 100 years to come, the rate progress will be equivalent to a change of 20,000 years if today’s rate is anything to go by.
In addition, the world will experience exponential returns because of the progress. For instance, we shall have cost-effective products and services and chip speed. According to the law, machine intelligence is getting to a completely new level of advancement and that in a few decades to come artificial intelligence will overtake human intelligence. The impact of this is the rapture of human history leading to The Singularity. The overall effect of this will be a union of biological and non-biological intelligence, and high level of intelligence that expand in the universe at the speed of light.
The law of accelerating returns
Kurzweil developed the law in the year 1999. In his book, The Age of Spiritual Machines, the author focuses on the accelerating rate at which technological progress occurs in the world and exponential effects of this progress. From the law of accelerating returns, several emerge. For example, will artificial intelligence surpass human intelligence? While the answer is yes, it is not possible to determine the level of performance. If this is the case, is the world getting to a point where machines can extend the life of human beings for centuries? Only time will tell.
However, you would expect these ambitious expectations to elicit fiery reactions especially from pessimistic critics. According to Kurzweil, who has since earned the title futurist, human ideas have the power to trigger a worldwide revolution. Such change would transform the lives of people at an exponential rate, making it hard for the world to go back to where it were decades ago.
The author of this law makes predictions depending on existing developments. For example, Kurzweil holds that a personal computer would beat a human being in a chess competition. This has already happened. Today, computers accurately work on numerous tasks beyond human. Alternatively, the world will experience self-driving cars, which is beginning to happen.
An important aspect of the law of accelerating returns is revolution that will take place in the world and the positive feedback to come. People will enjoy the benefits of exponential progress because of technological advancements. From information flow to biological evolution, technology will touch every aspect of human life.
The massive use of mobile phones and Smartphones shows technological progress. Twenty years ago, people who owned mobile phones were seen as Mexican drug lords. Today, there are about 6 billion mobile phones on the planet with over a billion Smartphones.
According to Kurzweil, we underestimate the capacity of our digital creations. He believes that people misunderstand the power of artificial intelligence, which tech companies like IBM are fronting.
What to expect in future based the law of accelerating returns
If this exponential progress continues, then it is obvious that the world will realize exponential growth and feedback. What people anticipated to come in 50 years will be around in 5 years. The futurist believes that machines are not doing anything new or different. With computation, they are more accurate and with a higher capacity to perform bulky, and technical tasks effectively.
In validating the law of accelerating returns, the author argues with evidence, showing how technology is simplifying life exponentially. He opines that technology will play a significant role in human health, citing cases where genome exists today because of technology that is a notch higher than before. This advancement will also draw benefits from exponential progress. He even hopes that this progress will have a positive effect on human life by prolonging our life spans. According to Kurzweil, this law is beneficial, as it will help eliminate human errors, which arise oftentimes.
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