Go large: the power of exponential thinking

For lovers of exponential thinking, the best place on Earth – and so by default the solar system – to immerse yourself in such ideas might be Silicon Valley. Those in the know make a beeline for Singularity University based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View – but a stone’s throw from Google HQ. You wouldn’t even have to be a good shot.

Each year, the university, which is more like a think tank or incubator than a traditional university, scours the planet for the most inquisitive risk-takers with plenty of smarts who combine entrepreneurial zeal with a flair for creativity. Eighty extraordinary people are thrown together for a long hot summer of ideas and innovation on the 10-week graduate studies program, sponsored by Google. What unites them all is a desire to develop ideas that can improve the lives of one billion people.

Exponential thinking is still a relatively unknown concept. It is not just about thinking big, it is about the steps to go from small to big. The leading evangelizers are Ray Kurzwiel, an expert in artificial intelligence and director of engineering at Google, and Peter Diamandis, the author of the books Abundance and Bold and founder of the X Prize. In 2008, they co-founded Singularity University. Diamandis explains the difference between linear and exponential thinking: “If I were to take 30 linear steps, I’d end up 30 paces or 30 meters away. But if I said to you take 30 exponential steps, one, two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two and said where would you end up?”

The answer is a billion meters away, or twenty-six times around the planet.

Most people struggle with exponential thinking and the huge difference between linear and nonlinear change. So —> Read More