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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Second Half Of The Chessboard

The story goes that the inventor of chess showed it to the emperor, who was mightily impressed, and asked the inventor to name a suitable reward. The seemingly modest response was one grain of rice on the first square, then doubling the rice on each subsequent square. When it turned out that many grains of rice had never been grown, the emperor had the inventor killed.

Old story.

Ray Kurzweil (p. 46) observes that while numbers do get large on the first half of the chessboard, we come across these in the real world. It’s the second half of the chessboard where they get crazy unbelievably big.

The 2nd Machine Age says we are entering the second half of the chessboard right now.

The greatest shortcoming of the human race is the inability to understand the exponential function. Albert A. Bartlett (p. 39)

Think of a line that hugs the bottom of a graph going right, until suddenly it shoots straight up the right side. If you change the up/down axis from an arithmetic progression to a logarithmic progression, the graph becomes a straight 45 degree angle. It’s the growth graph of most successful startups, healthy adoption of technology, and many other graphs I see every week.

So what?

As we enter the second half of the chessboard, we should understand that some “rules” change.

The book shows how Moore’s Law (that the power of computing per dollar doubles every 18 months) has been true for 50 years, but it’s not a law. It the result of thousands of scientists and engineers knocking over every barrier and finding new solutions that has kept Moore’s Law on track. Yet people see it as a law, like gravity, because that is the simpler way to think of it.

If we have billions of sensors available, and billions of thinkers available, successful projects are going to make effective use of both. The book says there are over 7 billion people with over 6 billion mobile phones. In Darwin’s Cathedral, David Sloan Coffin, one of the first evolutionists, thinks that the organism is not the individual human, but humankind. Forget the behavior of individuals, keep your eye on the species.

Which means that this internet thingie is a reordering of our species communication. I guess I knew that, but didn’t realize what it meant.

Leadership Breakfast of Maryland logo

For one of Jack’s projects, the Leadership Breakfast of Maryland, he wanted a great logo at a good price. He found a site which helped him define his situation, specify what he wanted and then turn it over to a community of hundreds of designers. He selected his top contender, who did some tweaking and was done. The process was fast, inexpensive, and high quality. Jack never met any of the people involved.

The 2nd Machine Age gets quite specific about the jobs that are currently machine replaceable and therefore have little value, those that will soon be machine replaceable and therefore have slightly better value, and those that will not be machine replaceable and therefore have a solid value going forward. Looking at their examples, I see they are true, and for me there is value in now seeing underlying reasons why.

We are puzzling out a new social model. Some say we should turn it over to the allegedly more capable.
“What more capable, Daddy?” “Us more capable!”

It’s like that song where the lady was driving on black ice, freaked out and hollered, “Jesus take the wheel!”

I notice the elect usually know less than the populace, so other solutions will probably be more rewarding.

A better solution is to construct models that let us better understand and work with our reality. The second half of the chessboard is new, but understandable, and has so far been very, very rewarding.

Take a wander through The 2nd Machine Age.

Or, consider The Molehill Business.

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