All in all, because of the Law of Accelerating Returns, Kurzweil believes that the 21st century will achieve 1,000 times the progress of the 20th century.2 If Kurzweil and others who agree with him are correct, then we may be as blown away by 2030 as our 1750 guy was by 2015—i.e.
the next DPU might only take a couple decades—and the world in 2050 might be vastly different than today’s world that we would barely recognize it. It’s what many scientists smarter and more knowledgeable than you or I firmly believe—and if you look at history, it’s what we should logically predict.
It’s impossible for us to understand what it would be like for him to see shiny capsules racing by on a highway, talk to people who had been on the other side of the ocean earlier in the day, watch sports that were being played 1,000 miles away, hear a musical performance that happened 50 years ago, and play with my magical wizard rectangle that he could use to capture a real-life image or record a living moment, generate a map with a paranormal moving blue dot that shows him where he is, look at someone’s face and chat with them even though they’re on the other side of the country, and worlds of other inconceivable sorcery.
This is all before you show him the internet or explain things like the International Space Station, the Large Hadron Collider, nuclear weapons, or general relativity.
When we imagine the progress of the next 30 years, we look back to the progress of the previous 30 as an indicator of how much will likely happen.
When we think about the extent to which the world will change in the 21st century, we just take the 20th century progress and add it to the year 2000.This experience for him wouldn’t be surprising or shocking or even mind-blowing—those words aren’t big enough. But here’s the interesting thing—if he then went back to 1750 and got jealous that we got to see his reaction and decided he wanted to try the same thing, he’d take the time machine and go back the same distance, get someone from around the year 1500, bring him to 1750, and show him everything.And the 1500 guy would be shocked by a lot of things—but he wouldn’t die. The 1500 guy would learn some mind-bending shit about space and physics, he’d be impressed with how committed Europe turned out to be with that new imperialism fad, and he’d have to do some major revisions of his world map conception.If he went back 12,000 years to 24,000 BC and got a guy and brought him to 12,000 BC, he’d show the guy everything and the guy would be like, “Okay what’s your point who cares.” For the 12,000 BC guy to have the same fun, he’d have to go back over 100,000 years and get someone he could show fire and language to for the first time.In order for someone to be transported into the future and die from the level of shock they’d experience, they have to go enough years ahead that a “die level of progress,” or a Die Progress Unit (DPU) has been achieved.If someone from a purely hunter-gatherer world—from a time when humans were, more or less, just another animal species—saw the vast human empires of 1750 with their towering churches, their ocean-crossing ships, their concept of being “inside,” and their enormous mountain of collective, accumulated human knowledge and discovery—he’d likely die.And then what if, after dying, got jealous and wanted to do the same thing.Note: The reason this post took three weeks to finish is that as I dug into research on Artificial Intelligence, I could not believe what I was reading.It hit me pretty quickly that what’s happening in the world of AI is not just an important topic, but by far THE most important topic for our future.Kurzweil suggests that the progress of the entire 20th century would have been achieved in only 20 years at the rate of advancement in the year 2000—in other words, by 2000, the rate of progress was five times faster than the 20th century’s worth of progress will happen by 2021, in only seven years.A couple decades later, he believes a 20th century’s worth of progress will happen multiple times in the same year, and even later, in less than one month.