Hi, I’m Azeem Azhar. I convene Exponential View to help us understand how our societies and political economy will change under the force of rapidly accelerating technologies. Every Wednesday, I aim to explore different aspects of our transition to the Exponential Age through charts.
What is the Exponential Age? It is the major shift in human affairs that is being catalysed by accelerating technologies. Exactly what it is and how it might affect you, I explore in my forthcoming book Exponential (The Exponential Age in the US and Canada).
The book was recently reviewed by the UK’s Sunday Times:
A valuable and timely book … The importance of the book lies in its diligent and comprehensive definition of a new phase in human affairs … an enticing and necessary read.
Pre-order it directly here. Order it today to get it as soon as it is published.
DEPARTMENT OF EXPONENTIAL
We’re all familiar with the declining cost curves in computing, so well popularised by Moore’s Law. But with my book, The Exponential Age / Exponential coming out next week, I wanted to reprise some of my favourite analyses of general technologies with exponential characteristics. That exponential improvements lend themselves to technologies other than computing is a key element of my thesis.
Between 2017 and 2025, the cost of cell programming, the ability to tweak the outputs of a cell, will have dropped around 100 fold. Note: we first used this chart in COTW#32. Via Gingko Bioworks
Thar’ she blows
In the US, the levelized cost of electricity generated by land-based wind declined by 40% between 2016 and 2020 (or the equivalent of 12% per annum), according to NREL. Even the mighty wind turbine is not immune to exponentiality. Via NREL
How Cerebras’s Wafer Scale Engine, the first trillion-transistor chip, bucked the Moore’s law trend for transistors per chip. Roughly speaking the more transistors on a single chip, the more powerful it will be. Via Predict
We’ll need more
And we’ll need more performant chips as the largest AI models are scaling at 1000x every couple of years. Expect multi-trillion parameter models soon. Via Cerebras/Anandtech
It all adds up
Fast-improving technology is creating enormous economic opportunities upon which investors are latching. Median Series C valuations for startups have recently leapt to $1bn up from $89m just five years ago. I roughly date the pivot point for the Exponential Age, the moment of inflection, to between 2013-16. It’s being reflected in the upward shift in these private company valuations. (Caveat: there may be some exuberance that isn’t entirely rational in those prices.) Via Wilson Sonsini via Harry Briggs
DEPARTMENT OF THE FUTURE OF MEDIA
Into the land of exclusivity
A big story about Joe Rogan’s waning influence since going exclusive with Spotify. The Verge found that guests who appear on Rogan’s show (the most popular podcast in the world) gain less influence in Twitter followers since he moved to Spotify. Via The Verge
Interest versus reach
This is slightly misleading. Google Trends data for Rogan’s has remained steady since his move to Spotify. The larger issue gets to the heart of the debate about walled gardens and paywalls. Popular creators like Rogan are increasingly going exclusive and losing a bit of reach in the process. Might this lead to a pushback in the creator universe? Perhaps, as we can see in the chart. Via Google Trends
NFT to the rescue?
The incredible boom in the NFT art market is fascinating from the vantage point of creator autonomy [above is the total NFT sales volume in the art scene since April]. In theory, creators have more control over their work when minting as an NFT. Could this expand beyond the art world? Via Statista
DEPARTMENT OF DIVISION
The long-term effect of Donald Trump’s war on the media is coming into full view. In 2016, 70% of Republican voters had some trust in national media. In 2021, that number shrunk to 35%. Via Pew & Susan Glasser
Dying to own the libs
You can draw a line between distrust in the media and mistrust in the US government’s handling of the pandemic. Look at the new Covid-19 caseload broken down by party affliction. Via Neoliberal
Wealth and division
Donald Trump didn’t invent distrust in the media. It evolved over the years, spurred on by social divisions like the massive intergenerational wealth gaps. Plugging these gaps is going to require a herculean effort. Via Charlotte Alter
A steady head and long-term outlook
Meanwhile, younger investors are increasingly drifting towards new ways of investing, in cryptocurrencies, for instance. The only problem: hyper volatility. This doesn’t bode well for long-term wealth accumulation, even if you are a Bitcoin maximalist. Via Wall Street Journal
How high will prices go?
Earlier this year, we pointed out the skyrocketing cost of shipping. Last year, it cost about $3,500 to ship a 40-foot container from Shanghai to Los Angeles. Now it cost $11,400. Incredible. Via Liz Ann Sonders
Bob Ross: Productivity master
A new guru of productivity and output? Via Tero Kuittinen
Buckle down the hatches
Warm ocean water is required for strong hurricanes. With ocean temperatures rising because of climate change, we are in for some severe storms. Via Zeke Hausfather
Happy for you to discuss any of these charts in the comments. Comments are open for Exponential View members. Visit the website to discuss and comment.
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