We're Always on an Exponential & Human Psychology

"We're on the tipping point of the technological evolution scale! The graph of technological advancements drawn against time is an exponential curve. And we're right at the point where the line skyrockets upwards. This is *the* inflection point!", I said to my brother right after we talked about how the Starlink satellites are being deployed. 

I made a gesture with my finger indicating the point of the inflection, right when he dropped a deeply profound line just very casually and said 

"that's the magic of an exponential curve; you're always at the inflection point where things are just about to skyrocket". 

Initially, that made no sense to me. He is right (and I am fairly embarrassed to say it took me some Excel-ing to really prove it to myself) - and it is all about the scale you choose. 

But on the other hand, I couldn't help but stop feeling that this is it. Look, we're at the point where everyone relies on supercomputers in their hands on a minute-to-minute basis, every human could potentially connect and communicate, we've built reusable 50m tall rockets that'll soon fly to Mars, and AI has beaten the Turing test and can now talk to humans without them knowing it. It's screaming at our face, we're standing right at the point where things only soar up from here.

This got me thinking, if I am so convinced that we are right at that inflection point, wouldn't say Christopher Columbus have thought the same when he discovered new lands? That this is the point where the course of humanity's history will change. Or when the industrial revolution started and James Watt thought he found the fix of the century in increasing the steam engine's efficiency?

My brother's words ring true - you're on the inflection point at every point - and though it is mathematically true, it doesn't feel like it because I'm convinced it really is going through the roof from here.

Here's why: human perception and scale.

  • Humans have a rich story of the past and have an evidence based timeline of what happened till date.
  • Humans are also very good at overlooking and taking for granted what we currently have and constantly focus on the next thing. So, we have a long list of human accomplishments which we now take for granted.
  • Lastly, humans are terrible at predicting the future. (Where are those flying cars the 80s promised us?)

All these combine to give you the perfect exponential situation, where we perceive nothing much happened until today, we anticipate a lot is currently going on based on the findings of current day tech, and predict it will blow up starting at just this very point.

And our inability to map out what the future looks like leaves us imagining the present is the inflection point.

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Take for example, if in a 100 years, researchers figured out how to find and go through wormholes - wouldn't a casual blogger at that point in time think that is the inflection point?

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