The Pace of Technological Change

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OPINION: THE pace of technological change is exponential. Understanding what exponential means is not easy because the numbers get so large so quickly. If we take a chessboard with 64 squares and double the number in each square from left to right we start with 1 and end, 64 squares later, with a number greater than 18 quintillion. If it were grains of rice it would pile higher than Mt Everest. If we start in 1958 with the number 1 then we are at just over 1 billion in 2018 and every two years from now on the numbers get seriously large.

There are three “laws” of technology that are exhibiting exponential growth – that is, they are doubling in size every 18 months to two years and have done for decades already. The first and most widely cited law is Moore’s Law. This law states that a processor doubles in capacity every two years – this has been true since 1970.

The second is Koomey’s Law where, at a fixed computing load, the amount of battery you need will fall by a factor of two every 18 months – this has been largely true since 1945.

The third is Kryder’s Law where the amount of data you can store in a given space will double every two years. Conversely, the same amount of storage space will halve in price every two years – this has been true since 1990.

Another important concept regarding technological change is recombinant innovation – more people looking at more data, more problems, more solutions. More people filtering and improving through innovation. Regardless of the three Laws – technology keeps improving.

All this exponential advance of technology means:

A building built today with a lifespan of 50 years will face technology 30 million times more powerful than today.

An 11-year old will see a 64 fold increase in computing power by the time they finish high school.

An executive moving from graduation to management over 20 years will face technology 500,000 times more powerful than the day they started work.

Whilst much of what we read on technology is designed to make us fearful there is so much to be optimistic about including the prospects of a cost of living near zero, abundant part-time work, the opportunity to constantly upgrade and adapt, access to global markets, output driven (not time or piece driven) and the ultimate flexibility (freedom) to work anywhere, anytime.

OFFICE/RETAIL/INDUSTRIAL: Buildings must be flexible and adaptable and capable of integrating technological advances.

By Tony Crabb, national director, research, Cushman & Wakefield.*