TED Conversations

Laurens Rademakers

TEDCRED 50+

This conversation is closed.

Why do things "speed up" over time? (Science, Innovation, War, Information...)

An interesting philosopher -- Paul Virilio - has written a lot about the acceleration of speed in the development of mankind:

-Information + speed: things get faster, billions of people are informed about events simultaneously, around the globe
-Politics and war + speed: blitzkrieg and video-bombing
-Science + speed: the law of accelerating inventions and returns

All disciplines and sectors of social management seem to "speed up" over time. The consequences are "catastrophic", according to him. Because of this, we are losing our grip on "reality".

Kurzweil has written something similar, but draws a kind of utopian fantasy out of it (his idea of the Singularity).

Why do things speed up over time?

Where does this come from?

:: Is there some kind of hidden law of acceleration in the universe? If we suggest there is, we have become metaphysicists

:: Is it the result of the evolution of our brain? If we say so, we need to explain why speed speeds up, while our brain is not getting faster, fast.

:: Perhaps it's a demographic fact? More brains are collaborating than ever before, on this planet.

None of these explanations is satisfactory. The question thus remains unanswered.

Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Jun 27 2011: I think the most important explanation albeit from your options has to be that perhaps its a demographic fact. Lets eliminate other factors first - Hidden laws imply that we, as you say are metaphysicists, and the explanation for everything is God. Not that Im an atheist, and I do believe in a higher power, but thats a different debate on a different thread. Evolution(brain or otherwise) again cannot be exponential, if it were we would probably be flying to work(either have developed wings or cheated gravity) because the rate of evolution has not been rapid enough to suggest otherwise. Now when we look at the demographic nature(its not really demographic, but we ll call it that now) smart people collaborate with other smart people more often now than they did say a century ago. We have reach now, we have technologies where people can collaborate across countries and borders and say if two people came up with an idea in 3 days hundred years ago, twenty people can collaborate to come up with that idea in half a day today. Science, Innovation, War, Information are just some examples where people combine to deliver ideas faster everyday. I dont think we are losing grip on reality, maybe just that reality has a firmer grip on people now more than ever. I m not really a mathematician but people who are will argue that its all to do with math and exponents, but the reality is the understanding of math and exponents came only after smart people collaborated on it. And yet the ideas are still fuzzy at best. But food for thought - To counter argue that there really has been no change at all -Feynman would say Entropy is a measure of disorder of elements inside a system to make it look the same outside, I think from an outside perspective the rate hasnt changed at all, but since we are internal elements of this ever increasing entropy(disorder) we see it as a logarithm of change and hence the measured increase.
    • Jun 27 2011: Evolution may be exponential when it comes to certain higher functions of the mind; we believe that we are thinking in a certain number of dimensions. How do we know this? Suppose that their are higher dimensions of thought that are not observable and measurable with existing scientific methods. The physical world may be converted into the spiritual world so that we have the following equation: The sum of spiritual energy E (sub) "s" + physical energy E sub "p" + matter (m) = nothingness.

      One individual working 1000 hours to solve a problem can come up with more useful ideas than 1,000,000 people on the internet spending one hour apiece. The internet is a mile wide and an inch deep. I reject the notion of the utility of mass efforts to solve problems (based on my experience of publishing in many fields).

      In the Mensa Bulletin in 1995 I specified the steps to achieve an increase in the number of paradigm shifts it is possible to attain. The first nation whose scientists understand and achieve effective utilization of these methods I predict will assume a leadership role in science and technology. You will note that this is not a collaborative effort, it is the work of individuals.

      This process is called intuitive iteration:

      1) Get a gut reaction to a situation,

      2) Introduce the facts and logic,

      3) Compare and contrast the facts and logic,

      4) If they are compatible then you are on to something potentially significant,

      5) If they diagree try to resolve the differences,

      6) If they cannot be resolved throw out your intuition, the facts and the logic,

      7) Start over i.e. get a gut reaction.

      It took me over 2000 iterations to find just one new idea in chess alone, but that new idea revolutionized an entire opening in chess.

      In geology after 35 years and vast amounts of work I published a new school of geology. It is published on line ("Beyond Plate Tectonics: 'Plate' Dynamics"). It took just one individual to create this new school of geology, not a committee.
      • thumb
        Jun 29 2011: "A mile wide and an inch deep" sums up the internet nicely.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.