The flying car is the ultimate symbol of technology advancement. Many scientists in the 70s predicted that this technology would exist by the year 2000. So, where's my flying Monte Carlo?

Could it be that all of these scientists were flat out wrong, or could it be that they just made imprecise measurements as to when this mass proliferation of technology would occur? After all, people lost billions betting that the Internet was going to change the world by the late 90s, and it did, just a decade or so later.

A scientist hailed by industry leaders and moguls such as Bill Gates, Google, Forbes and NASA, is claiming that the near future, within 30 years, is going to be an entirely unrecognizable place. Imagine the vast advancements in technology and culture that have taken place since the first primitive human picked up a rock and used it as a tool. Ray Kurzweil makes the claim in his book, The Singularity is Near, that comparable advancements in technology and culture may take place within the next 30 years.

He makes claims, such as humans not being able to tell nor care about the difference between virtual reality and reality, or a human and a robot. Those two things in themselves would drastically change the way humans view themselves, their lives and the world around us. If you think those are amazing, he scientifically describes how we could be able to travel throughout the universe at will and think thousands of times faster. All of this change in the near future, within many of our lifetimes, which, oh yeah, could be forever, or as long as we want, he writes. Soon he predicts we will be able to raise average life expectancy by far more than a year every year.

At this point you may be skeptical, but his theories are backed up by the exponential increase in technology we have been experiencing. The problem with understanding the future is that humans naturally think about the future linearly, projecting technological increases in the next 10 years to mimic the last 10 years. In reality, the time needed for technology to double is constantly decreasing. The next thing to realize with an exponential curve, is that at a certain point progress relative to time skyrockets up. The increase in technology that once took 20 years now takes 10, and then 5, and then 2.5, and then 1.25, and then .75 years, and then on and on. Kurzweil claims that we are right at the beginning of the sharp upturn that's characteristic of exponential curves. See Below.

 

Part of the reason we are right at the beginning of this elbow of the exponential curve is that low-level artificial intelligence, which will play an important roll in the future, is already engrained in many of our systems. Think about the computationally intense algorithms already making decisions in financial markets, airplane landing systems and even our friendly search engine, Google. By the way, we're experiencing an exponential increase in almost all forms of technology right now, including, but not limited to: semiconductor processing speed, data storage, size of semiconductors and even genotyping. Just reflect on the fact that a handheld iPhone 4S is now more powerful than an IBM 7030 supercomputer that used to cost $13.5 million and took up the majority of a room.

So as decision-makers in business, how exactly do we address this supposedly eminent future? How will the exchange of goods and services be affected and what goods and services will be needed to make this future a not-so-virtual reality? The opportunities the future presents will be vast and meaningful.