Digital technological repeatedly surprises and disrupts despite being rather predictable. Computer processing speed, for example, has followed what is known as Moore’s Law for decades. The explanation lies in the mismatch between people’s innate tendency to extrapolate the future and the actually way that exponential growth occurs, according to Professor Richard Baldwin, author of The Great Convergence: Information Technology and the New Globalization (2016) and leader of the Graduate Institute’s online course Globalisation, which begins this week.
“Throughout our evolutionary history, human brains only had to track a very narrow range of speeds. We tend to view the change between today and tomorrow as very similar to the change between yesterday and today. But this is not how digital technology works. According to Moore's law, processing power doubles every two years. If you keep doubling, you reach an explosive phase where the increases become gigantic. When these two ways of thinking about the future cross paths, you get what I call a ‘Holy Cow’ moment.”
“Before the Holy Cow moment, people tend to over-estimate the impact of technology. Once you get beyond the Holy Cow moment, people just can’t comprehend why things are changing so fast. We’re at that point now when it comes to digital technology, and most people are under-estimating how quickly the nature of globalization will change as a result.”
Professor Baldwin’s course on Globalisation, offered in partnership with social learning platform FutureLearn, will run over four weeks, combining video lectures, articles, discussions and interactive assignments. Registration is free and learners can access the platform anytime.