By Om Malik
I quote Om, I link to his writing. Hopefully, I succeed in convincing others to stay in touch with his thoughts, endeavors, directly. And, now, I find I must read the weekly newsletter from Azeem Azhar.
A couple of quotes from Om’s latest…on Azeem Azhar’s EXPONENTIAL VIEW.
Excerpts from the beginning and end of a short interview conducted via email and Google Docs with Azeem.
Q: From a layman’s perspective, what is Exponential View?
A: Exponential View is a newsletter charting the impact of this major techno-economic-political transition that we are going through. It started life in 2015 as a simple newsletter to help me learn. We were (and still are) witnessing the collision of general-purpose technologies in the fields of computing, energy, biology, and manufacturing. Each of these was improving — on a price/performance basis — very quickly, more than 10% per annum. Silicon chips have improved at around 40-45% per annum for several decades. And startup should destabilize (and then help redefine) our ways of doing things.
EV investigated these trends from a technical, startup, and social perspective. Exponential View is the thesis that emerged from this activity: that technology and societal changes are intertwined and that now more than ever, we need to understand those interrelationships…
Q: What does the near future look like? What are some of the key trends that will shape that future?
A: I wrote my decade predictions in an essay at the end of 2018. Largely, they hold up. Climate change is the most important trend.
Equally, the technologies of the Exponential Age in computing, biology, energy, and manufacturing will continue to get cheaper and cheaper. This will make many areas of activity currently uneconomical, economical. Cheap solar electricity will create a market for hydrogen and synthetic fuels. Great computation will enable better ML methods to allow us to design sophisticated microorganisms in silico before deploying them in the world to fix nitrogen with a lower energy cost than the Haber-Bosch process.
And yet, these technologies will be destabilizing. They will upset the status quo and shift power away from certain actors and towards others. This destabilization process could increase national and civil conflicts, disadvantaging in some fundamental ways many groups or simply creating political unrest as others feel a lack of agency. This last trend may be the one that punishes us for any technical progress, so figuring out how to put humanity’s hand on the tiller that guides the direction of their technologies needs to be a priority.
October 24, 2021. San Francisco.