Models and Theories in Human-Computer Interaction/Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns – The future will be here faster than we know it

As opposed to a continuous (and linear) rate of progress, Ray Kurzweil proposes that the rate of technological progress is actually exponential. Kurzweil views technological progress as an evolutionary process. He considers the process to have three parts which impact the exponential growth in the Law of Accelerating Returns. The first is that the creations of one stage of progress are used to create the next stage, resulting in exponential growth. This can be seen in the changes in speed, capacity, size and weight of technology. For instance, current LCD televisions barely resemble their Cathode Ray Tube predecessors. The second aspect is that the effectiveness of the process also improves at an exponential rate. This effectiveness is often reflected in increased cost-effectiveness. It often translates into second or third generations of a type of technology usually costing less than the first generation or prototype version. The third part is that the methods and approaches to problem solving (paradigms) are used until nothing more can be gained with them. The resulting change to approach, a paradigm shift, continues the exponential growth.

Kurzweil’s core belief is that we are headed towards technological singularity (the rise of superior artificial intelligence and the potential merge of human and machine) and that the future is not quite as far away as the current rate of progress would lead us to believe. Kurzweil presents his Law of Accelerating Returns to support his argument that this event will occur in the near future. While there have been many technological breakthroughs in a short period of time over the past decade (especially when considering the longer timespan between the radio and the television, for example), Kurzweil’s hybrid-humans-by-2030 may still be pushing it.