Kurzweil @ Microsoft (Part 2)
I noticed that, even with a Microsoftie crowd, there was a bit of a hushed skepticism when a certain point was reached when Kurzweil was discussing a trend. For example, computer speeds, or neural simulation. Put another way - even with a generally receptive audience, there's a point where predictions seem to ring a little untrue.
I think that corresponds to the "knee point". In other words, the audience can grasp the linear trend, but when the exponential factor takes over it's harder to believe.
What might make this easier is to buffer the notion of exponential growth a bit more - Kurzweil certainly showed a lot of nice slides of historical, exponential trends - and go through the record of how this has "felt" to those experiencing the growth. In other words, we shouldn't be skeptical of XXXX because (a) we can show the trend and (b) this is exactly like what happened with YYYY.
Also, when driving home, I figured out the question I should have asked:
Knowing that exponential growth is occuring in an area, how should that affect decisions that you're making?
Taken at one extreme: making a substantial investment now towards a manned flight to Jupiter for 2050 would be silly. By then we should have perfect VR and/or uploaded brains and/or trans-human AI. Most of those would obsolete any needs for the hardware we'd be likely to develop.
How about shorter term - a 2025 flight to Mars? Reduce fossil fuel dependence by 2020? Trying to improve medical conditions in Africa by 2015? Building software for 2010? Raising a child in 2005?