I have found that the metaphor “Connecting the Dots” is a good way to think about the emerging future. With the sheer number of dots emerging, and the pace at which they advance, we are challenged both by the number of dots, and the speed at which they emerge and Intersect. These dots are combining to form virtuous cycles; complex chains of events that reinforce themselves through feedback loops. Visualizing both the connections and the cycles is one approach to finding the signal through the noise.
One critical signal is timing. In a recent Post, I explored this signal through an Artificial Intelligence (AI) lens and one small dot; computing power. Gerd Leonhard did a masterful job taking it a step further in this recent Post on The Singularity. Gerd explored other AI dots, connecting them in a way that convinced him the singularity will happen in his own lifetime. He believes that the velocity obstacles limiting artificial intelligence and other exponential technologies will be eliminated in the next 2 decades (I agree). He has consistently stated that the next 20 years will bring more changes than the past 300 years: and with his focus on ethics, he concludes that life could be amazing (if we govern technology wisely) or it could be utterly inhuman (if we empower technology endlessly, unwisely and unethically).
To reinforce the dots that Gerd connected, I pulled together this visual:
I believe that a key leadership trait going forward is an ability see the dots emerging and their likely intersections.
7 thoughts on “The Singularity: Connecting Dots”
Gerd “…has consistently stated that the next 20 years will bring more changes than the past 300 years.”
Another way to say this might be, knowledge driven social change will continue to accelerate until it finally reaches the limits of our ability to adapt, and then the system will crash bringing an end to the process. No one can say exactly when and how this will happen. But if we plot ever accelerating change against an incrementally growing ability to adapt, we can state with some confidence that it will happen.
To avoid that fate we need to edit one or both of the following, 1) the pace of the knowledge explosion, 2) our ability to adapt to social change.
If we think of the knowledge explosion as an engine in a car, the engine can only go as fast as the weakest part of the car. If we want the car to go 500mph, we have to upgrade the tires and all the other parts of the car to be reliable at that speed. Failing to upgrade a single part could be sufficient to ensure a crash.
What I’m looking for are futurists who are willing and able to sweep all the distracting details off the table and get to the bottom line, which might be expressed by this question….
QUESTION: Is it true that our “more is better” relationship with knowledge is simplistic, outdated and dangerous?
“More is better” was a great paradigm in previous environments where knowledge was in short supply. We are no longer in that environment, but in a radically new environment where knowledge is exploding. Successful adaption to this new environment will require updating the simplistic “more is better” formula to some other relationship with knowledge which is far more intelligent and sophisticated.
If we don’t understand this fundamental challenge and meet it, there’s really little point in talking about AI, genetic engineering etc, and all the other details.
Down with distracting details! Please take us to the bottom line.
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I️ agree with your conclusion. I️ Also speak everywhere about adaptation being the only way to survive. But if you look at our linear structures and the fact that humans are linear beings – I️ question whether society can make this shift.
Getting to the bottom line can only be meaningful with awareness. Our job right now is to create that awareness – because it is woefully lacking
Hi Frank, thanks for your replies.
Perhaps it would be helpful to point to a relationship shift that is already underway with a reasonable degree of success. Our relationship with food used to be “more is better”, which made sense when we were living near the edge of starvation. Today, in the developed world at least, more people die of obesity related diseases than starvation. And so we are in the process of shifting away from the long standing “more is better” relationship with food to a more sophisticated perspective. It’s an imperfect process for sure, but it is underway, and does appear to be making progress.
Everyone seems to assume that it’s impossible to edit our relationship with knowledge, and so I hear many silly suggestions such as the solution being humanity spreading out across the galaxy etc. It seems to me editing the relationship with knowledge is impossible mostly because we insist on labeling it as impossible, or more often, we ignore the subject entirely.
I’m sure I’m not as well read as you are on futurist topics, so I’m seeking your help in understanding, who is talking about editing our relationship with knowledge? For example, who is asking whether we should slow down, or offering ideas on how that might be accomplished? I can’t find such thinkers, but that’s probably because I don’t know how to look.
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It’s baked into a broader discussion about governance. Creating our future versus letting it shape us. I️ am far from dystopian- but I️ talk to leaders around the world – and I’m not encouraged
Well, on the up side, revolutionary situations create revolutionary opportunities as well as threats.
As example, it seems only a matter of time until somebody sets off a nuke somewhere. Such a tragic event would receive unprecedented global media coverage, which might serve to revolutionize global public opinion on that issue. If we were able to get rid of nukes, that would provide evidence that we are able to fix the mistakes that are inevitable in any learning process.
We typically learn not by reason, by through pain. The question may be, will we receive the instructive pain in measured doses which we can learn from, or will the pain come in an overwhelming wave which crushes our ability to respond?
Will some sick mad dog terrorist save the world by showing us what we are racing towards, in the only way we are capable of listening to?
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[…] impact and accelerate pace. It underscores the need for Systems Leadership and a keen ability to Connect these Dots in ways that allow us to drive positive progression, while mitigating the risk of unintended […]