Uncover the ancient chess legend that unveils the astounding power of exponential growth and its significance in today’s AI-driven world. As we approach the inflection point, we must prepare for transformative changes that could reshape the economy, society, and job market. Delve into the exponential progress of AI, its implications, and the need for a cautious approach to harness its potential for the betterment of humanity.
Copyright: medium.com – “We Have Reached the Second Half of the Chessboard: AI Has Passed the Inflection Point, and There’s No Way Back”
There’s an ancient legend about the person who invented the game of chess, a wise man who asked for an unusual payment. When asked by the emperor what he wanted as a reward for his invention, he requested one grain of wheat for the first square of the chessboard, two grains for the second square, and so on, doubling the amount of wheat for each subsequent square. The emperor readily agreed, failing to grasp what an enormous sum would result from this exponential growth. By the time they reached the second half of the chessboard, the amount of wheat was so vast that fulfilling the request became impossible.
In technology strategy, the “second half of the chessboard” is a phrase coined by futurist Ray Kurzweil, referring to the point at which exponential growth becomes so significant that it leads to rapid, transformative changes. This may impact various aspects of our lives, such as the economy, society, or the job market. As Kurzweil notes in “The Law of Accelerating Returns,” though initial returns may be small, it is during the later phases of exponential growth that the effects become extraordinary and beyond all human common-sense models.
This concept illustrates the profound effects of exponential growth, which is especially relevant in the age of artificial intelligence (AI). This field has been making incremental progress for decades, but we are on the cusp of a new era. As we stand at or near this inflection point, understanding its implications and bracing for the rapid changes ahead is essential.
People’s ability to comprehend exponential growth is limited. In fact, the 20th-century physicist Albert Allen Bartlett once said, “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is the inability to understand the exponential function.” He observed that while the world was rapidly transitioning from linear to exponential growth, most people failed to grasp the consequences of the shift. We often envision trends as linear because most trends we encounter in daily life appear that way. Linear trends are easy to recognize, such as steady population growth or incremental price increases, and they make intuitive sense to us.
Evolution has optimized the human brain for dealing with linear functions because they have generally been far more critical to our immediate survival. However, we struggle to understand exponential trends, as there are few situations in nature where these apply. As we navigate the second half of the chessboard, recognizing and adapting to exponential growth will be crucial for constructively shaping the future.
AI’s Exponential Progress
Over the past several years, AI has experienced exponential growth in many areas, such as in the realm of language models like OpenAI’s GPT series. These models have seen rapid improvements in their capabilities, allowing them to perform tasks that were once exclusive to humans, such as generating human-like text, translating languages, and even coding. There has been similar progress in the creation of AI-generated images, a development that has upended the professional artistic community. The progression of AI is intrinsically linked to Moore’s Law, an observation stating that the number of transistors on a microchip doubles approximately every two years, leading to exponential increases in computing power. Moore’s Law has been a driving force of the technological and social change, productivity, and economic growth that are hallmarks of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.[…]
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