This century isn’t going to be anything like the previous centuries of “technology innovation.” To put that into perspective, it helps to understand Moore’s Law, which most people get wrong. Moore’s Law originally said that the number of transistors on a given square area of silicon doubles every 18 months (later revised to every 24 months). Here’s how that looks:
I’ve drawn this graph paying particular attention to fit the curves to the actual data. Please take a minute to understand what’s happening here. If something doubles every two years, then after about five years all the previous years of progress are so small they can’t be seen. All four graphs on the left are represented by the blue line in the graph on the right! In fact, in another ten years we’ll be past the component size where the Heisenberg uncertainty principle kicks in, and ten years later we’ll be at the Planck boundary! We may continue on this path, but we’ll have to do it using entirely new (superconducting, molecular, quantum) approaches.
And this is roughly the shape of the graph for everything this century:
We’re at the elbow of everything, and we may stay right in that elbow for the next ten to twenty years, before we start to hit real physical limits. Look at the graph — everything that happened before 2008 is now irrelevant. A single iPhone 7 has 3.3 billion transistors on its cpu alone — more than all the transistors in the world when I studied computer science in the 1980s*. We are just getting started. In 2030, the graph for the next twenty years will look similar.
Did you catch that? In 2030, we’ll do this again. We’ll still be at the elbow of everything! It’s hard to say how long this will continue, because new technological advances can sweep the world in ten years, resetting the stage for the next one.
You can say this has always been the case, but things are different now. It’s going to get harder and harder for society to change fast enough to adapt. Software is changing all of our lives, and software learns at an exponential rate. I’ll have more to say about that in another essay.
So here’s the takeaway: The next twenty years will see more change than the previous two hundred. Please take that on board and carry it with you — you’ll need it sooner than later. The last twenty years have nothing to do with the next twenty. We’re entering a period of unprecedented change. As these technologies combine and emerge, we’ll see incredible new products and services come from the edge to the center quickly, combining software, AI, streaming, Internet of Things, Robotics, 3-D printing, VR/AR, chat bots, screens, gene editing, life extension, and much more. As we double the number of cities on Earth in the next thirty years, all our institutions and economies will change dramatically as well.
Because our economy is a complex adaptive system, predictions and futurists are useless. The only thing we can say about the year 2030 is that it will look less like today than we may think. Our school systems, our ways of creating and consuming information, our tools, our way of thinking about the world will all be hopelessly out of date every five years for the foreseeable future.
A New Community, a New Company
To address these challenges, I believe we must embrace decentralization. This single change of mindset represents a fundamental shift from the planned economies of the past and embraces a more dynamic, agile approach to solving problems. In an accelerating world, we need to understand our human limitations, capabilities, and capacity for change. We shouldn’t try to compete with technological change. We should learn to ride it, the way a surfer rides a wave.
Once we have a decentralized mind-set, we can use decentralized technology to help reshape the business world to empower, rather than use, individuals. Think of banks, insurance companies, media companies, FaceBook, LinkedIn, eBay — they exist to monetize consumers. Yet we don’t need them and their central control over our lives. A key part of the solution is the blockchain. Combined with software, sensors, crowd-based decisionmaking, and AI, blockchain will steadily replace repetitive white-collar work and free humans to do more creative things.
I’m working with a group of founders to start a new company called 20|30.
It’s more than a company.
It’s a movement. We already have dozens of volunteers. We’re going to sprint every week until the decentralized world we envision becomes reality. In 2030, we’ll recommit to a new set of goals. For now, everything has to be rebuilt. Everything will change. We have no time to lose.
Today we’re having our open house. We invite you to join us in changing the world:
*I made that up, but it’s probably true.