Estimating Technical Progress

Overestimating the potential upside of every new sign of tech progress is as common as downplaying the downsides. It's easy to let our imaginations run wild with how any new development is going to change everything practically overnight. The unforeseen technical roadblocks that inevitably spring up are only one reason for this consistent miscalculation. Human nature is simply out of sync with the nature of technological development. We see progress as linear, a straight line of improvement. In reality, this is only true with mature technologies that have already been developed and deployed. For example, the way Moore's law accurately described the advances in semiconductors, or the way solar cell efficiency is improving at a slow but steady pace.

Before that predictable progress phase, there are two previous phases: struggle and then breakthrough. This fits the axiom of Bill Gates, "We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten." We expect linear progress, but what we get are years of setbacks and maturation. Then the right technologies combine or a critical mass is reached and boom, it takes off vertically for a while, surprising us again, until it reaches the mature phase and levels off. Our minds see tech progress as a straight diagonal line, but it's usually more of an S-shape.


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 Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Kasparov, Garry (201752), Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins, Retrieved on 2019-03-10
Folksonomies: artificial intelligence automation ai