Why You Are Getting Disrupted

Brian  Hopkins

The overriding theme of every disruption story I’ve ever heard is that firms thought they had more time than they did. So, I’ve been pondering the why. We can see disruption happening all around us, but why is it so difficult to get out in front of it?

Then I slogged my way through Ray Kurzweil’s Law Of Accelerating Returns and it hit me. Digital disruption is about the clash between exponential change and our brain’s wanting things to be linear. Here is what I mean:

  • The law of accelerating returns says that evolutionary systems, like information technology, produce exponential changes. This happens because one generation of technology builds on and accelerates the returns of past generations. Think of how the Internet led to cloud, accelerating mobile apps, which build on broadband wireless, etc.
  • Accelerating returns produce exponential curves in a system’s fundamental measures. This is what Ray proved mathematically in his law. In information technology that means the measures of power and speed tend to double at consistent intervals, while costs are cut in half. Think Moore’s law.
  • The law of accelerating returns implies that Moore’s law is not the exception, it's the rule. So, we should expect many Moore’s laws, and if fact, that is what we have seen — look up Gilder’s Law, Metcalf’s Law, Kryder’s Law, etc.
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