Understanding exponential technology

Once upon a time, about 3000 years ago, a king lived in India. A visitor presented him with a game. He called it Chess.

The King loved the game. Elephants and camels and horses and men. Strategy and war. It made sense.

The King asked - what do you want as payment?

The game developer said I want see rice”. The King was surprised rice, really?”

How much do you want?

The game developer asked for

  • one grain of rice in the first block and
  • two grains in the second block
  • four grains in the third block
  • eight in the fourth block and
  • It goes on doubling at every block.

The payment is whatever the number of grains ends up at the end of the chess board.

The King says that should be easy.

What do you think the number of grains will be? We have 64 blocks on the chess board?

It’s 1,000,000 by the 20th Its 1,000,000,000 by the 40th And 18 quadrillion by the 64th.

More rice than the entire world was a rice field.

Humans are bad at exponential projections. We cannot imagine the power of this doubling. This is now going beyond the computer chips but into drones, AI, gene sequencing, robotics and a range of other technologies.

How might we bring that exponential technology into our organisation Startegy?

BTW, the king did not like being fooled. The game developer lost his head.

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“For organizations to survive and grow, their rate of learning has to be equal to, or greater than, the rate of change in their environment. Revans’s axiom –L ≥ C –is an essential of organizational ecology.” from “The Fish Rots From The Head: The Crisis in our Boardrooms: Developing the Crucial Skills of the Competent Director” by Bob Garratt