Seeing the future: Exploring exponential technology

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In the world we live in, some technologies are advancing at a breakneck pace, or exponentially. This means that capabilities are doubling or more with every step, often at the same or reduced cost, leading to digitization, democratization and disruption.

This has been most evident with Moore’s law in semiconductors (with the transistor density on silicon doubling every 18 months) over two decades, which led to miniaturization and cost efficiencies for electronics. But, it is not limited to this.

We have seen similar trends in wireless spectral efficiency and bandwidth doubling every 30 months (Cooper’s law) and an exponential trend in the scale and cost of data storage media like hard drives (Kryder’s law).

Swanson’s law talks about a 20% drop in price of solar photovoltaic modules for every doubling of cumulative shipped volume.

These examples are all around us.

However, the impact and speed of change is probably most visible in what we carry around daily in our pockets and purses—our smartphones. They enable us to routinely do things that even just a few years ago required a completely different approach.

Think of how many more pictures you take and how quickly you share them with others.

Think of WhatsApp, Facebook, Ola/Uber, Amazon/Flipkart, Paytm or BookMyShow. These technologies not only digitize and democratize services and products, but also (sometimes in a matter of months) disrupt established industries that have stood for decades.

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