Scientific Sense Podcast

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Step and Wait

Recent research from USC points out that technology does not grow as predicted by Moore’s law and its variants. Instead, it moves more in a process, the researchers call – Step and Wait. Although the focus was investment decisions in technology, this is applicable across the entire economy.

It should be intuitively clear to anybody observing system wide effects of technology. Airplanes, computers and the Internet ushered in step function changes in productivity that took a decade or two to bleed through the entire economy. Once such a step is taken, however, the wait can be long. Today’s world is yearning for a step but unfortunately none has come and it is possible that the long drought in technology innovation could continue. Many have identified incremental product improvement as technology advancement. For investment managers and policy makers, such ideas are disastrous. iPhone 10 is unlikely to save the world, making device based communications obsolete may be in the right direction.

Some technologists have fallen into the trap of extrapolation – and forecasting using exponential growth curves. Singularity, feared by many, came from such a thought process. But if one has to wait for decades after taking a step, technology singularity may be the last thing we have to worry about.

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