Home Economics Exponential

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Learn the key ideas of the book by Azeem Azhar


How to reconcile civil society and technological progress

We live in the Exponential Era, a time when exponential technologies, including artificial intelligence, blockchain, virtual and augmented reality, quantum computing, and 3D printing, are giving rise to unprecedented transformation in our society. In Exponential: How Accelerating Technology Is Leaving Us Behind and What to Do About It, Azeem Azhar analyses the situation, and urges us to consider the consequences of this change. The author also encourages us to accept this transformation, and adapt our mindset so that we can mend the rift between technological development and modern-day society.

Read in 16 min.
Listen in 20 min.

We are entering a new era in human history: the Exponential Era

Ever since ancient times, human beings have used technology to try and make their lives easier, for example when our ancestors used the very first flint tools to hunt more efficiently, or as a result of the industrial revolution of the 19th century. However, we tend to underestimate one aspect of our dependence on technology, and that is its innate power to transform the world around us, in such an unpredictable way that no one, not even the people who created the technology in the first place, can say for sure which way it will go. This happens because the society in which we live has become a complex system, whose political, economic, cultural and social forces interact with each other so closely, that the slightest change can have enormous consequences for the entire system.

Innovation has always generated transformation, and change is part of human history. When change occurred in the past, people would at first reject it, then try to adapt to it, and eventually learn to take advantage of it. The human brain is not wired to accept change willingly, and takes time to do so, but time is in extremely short supply in today’s Exponential Era. What is different now, from all the other technological phases we have witnessed since 2010, is the speed at which these changes are taking place. We are no longer talking about centuries or decades, but years, if not months.


The key ideas of "Exponential"

We are entering a new era in human history: the Exponential Era
Exponential technologies make it possible to create products that have never before even been imagined, and at an ever lower cost
Renewable energy, innovation in biotechnology, and 3D printing are examples of exponential technologies
The exponential revolution that is currently underway came about thanks to three catalysing forces, as well as a favourable economic and political environment
When we talk about technological innovation, we take two factors for granted, and this distorts our perception of what is happening
The unwritten law of the exponential economy is that the winner takes all
The gig economy is a product of these times, but needs to be regulated, in order to be sustainable
Exponential technologies have also changed global geopolitics, and the relationship people have with the market
In the Exponential Era, it is critical to mend the rift that has been created between technological development and civil society
Take-home message
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