1. Prologue

Time is the fire in which we burn.

– Delmore Schwartz

(Video).  I once had a dream in midsummer, 2015.  I was in a dark and humid basement one afternoon, and I came across a very large book.  Upon slapping away the dust from the cover of this grand tome, its title became visible, a title both grand and vague – Exponential and Accelerating.  The mildew and silverfish aside, this was just too interesting to pass up.  I hastily proceeded to peruse through its yellowed pages to see what was contained within; to imbibe the compilation of events from eons long past to see how we got to today.

The first couple chapters of the book described the origin of the Earth, the evolution of early life and the progress through the geologic periods.  The arrival of multicellular creatures, vertebrates, and advanced animals was interesting enough, but what stood out was that the entire description of evolution through to modern humans only occupied the first several pages of this book.  It seemed that the events of the last 40,000 years were more worthy of prose than the events of the preceding 4.5 billion years.

On to the Age of Man, I read about the earliest agriculture, the great ancient civilizations, and continued on through the Middle Ages.  It was apparent that each century occupied more pages of the book, or rather, that each century was more filled with noteworthy events.  The last five centuries received the most detail, and the twentieth century itself had more content than the entirety of eons prior to that point.  I continued to read on about the Industrial Revolution, the beginnings of space exploration, and the computer age.  The common theme was that we live in a time where events occur at an increasingly rapid rate.

Yet, I was only halfway through the book when I reached the present, and this puzzled me.  I looked at the copyright date of the book and was stunned.  The book in my dream was written in the early 22nd century, and the remaining few hundred pages were a description of the 21st century!  I could barely contain my excitement at the prospect of reading the second half of this volume, but the pages seemed to be welded shut, and I could not turn to the pages past what described my present day.  I tried to pry it open with a screwdriver, but to no avail.  My dream did not allow me to see the most interesting section of this book from the future.  I could only ponder the profound possibility that the latter 85 years of the century were so eventful that it occupied half of the book; the same length as all of Earth’s noteworthy events from the start until 2015.

I awoke suddenly, and the next morning went straight to the bookstore to peruse some of the latest books on futurism.  A few volumes from renowned thinkers in various fields occupied the shelves, some on the future of artificial intelligence, other books on space exploration, and still others on biotechnology.  However, each of those books described a future saturated predominantly with only their specified technology, thereby making each book mutually exclusive with the others.  The more holistic and multidisciplinary books were over a decade old, a situation entirely inconsistent with the accelerating rate of technological progress.  Lastly, there was little in the way of practical applications such as policy recommendations for economic and political leaders, or guidance for ordinary people seeking to adapt to this tsunami of technological change.  Many questions of contemporary importance were left unaddressed.

This vacuum convinced me that the time had come for a compact whitepaper that weaves these rapidly accelerating but seemingly disparate strands into a single tapestry of our destiny.  To transcend the mere theoretical, the whitepaper must provide solutions for the increasingly stifling bottleneck created by the outdated econo-political apparatus.  For ages, the default assumptions have been built around tradeoffs between safety nets and higher taxes, or guaranteed minimum incomes and business friendliness.  But times are changing, and we are on the brink of an era where technological diffusion will be pervasive and pronounced enough to make some of these tradeoffs recede.  The churn of fortunes and prosperity will increasingly be governed by how much an individual, business, or government grasps the concepts of exponential, accelerating economic and technological progress.

There comes a rare time when a seemingly unrelated tangle of very complicated problems that continues to vex all established assumptions can be addressed with a comprehensive, elegant, yet simple solution.  If ever there was a time and place for ‘outside the box’ ideas of grand scope, it is here and now.  As a society, we could be on the brink of taking prosperity to a new level with some remarkably straightforward economic and monetary adaptations.  But if we do not embark on these reforms, we will soon have another financial crisis within the next few years, which may be worse than the previous one.

To describe the multiple interlocking forces between technology, economics, finance, and government in as simple and concise a manner as possible, I have embedded brief introductory videos at the start of major chapters.  This layer is for the benefit of those who would like a summary of a particular topic in the whitepaper before they decide to read a formidable wall of text.  The goal of this whitepaper is to reach a large and diverse audience of people on some very complicated subject matter, among whom learning speeds and styles can vary greatly.

What you are about to read and watch might change the way you look at the world, and fully change every assumption you have about the future, mostly for the better.  At a minimum, you might never look at certain slices of life the same way again.

To begin, let us first consider the many complicated trends, policies, and interconnections that govern the world today.  Perhaps you are worried about technology replacing your job or the jobs of people close to you.  Perhaps you feel that your taxes are too high, and that government spending patterns do not reflect your values.  Perhaps you are troubled as to why interest rates are nearly zero, yet there seems to be deflation spreading across many sectors of the economy.  Perhaps you just feel that technology is creating a new type of inequality that is hard to describe by old-fashioned criteria, yet palpable on an instinctual level.

If you feel any or all of the above questions are a source of personal uncertainty, then this is the reading material for you.  You may start thinking about many important topics that have very little written about them.  Even better, perhaps you can get behind some of the ideas I have presented here, since many of these challenges can be addressed in highly complementary ways.  As we embark on this unpacking process, we must divide the body of knowledge into sections.  There are multiple concepts that tie together to form the grand unified set of analyses and recommendations I am presenting here.

To begin, we will first establish the case that economic growth is and always has been exponential and accelerating, and has been throughout all of human civilization, even as it is being partly stifled at present.  Secondly, we will examine the deepening scope of technological penetration into an ever-widening share of the economy, how this is creating accelerating deflation, and why this is not necessarily a negative thing.  After that, we will arrive at a policy solution for governments and central banks to assess and implement, designed to remove the drag effect of the current set of policies and set the stage for the next era of economic ascendance.  Finally, we will detail some case studies and ideas that you can benefit from on a personal level, and claim a greater slice of the ATOM economy, since, after all, some others already are.

Continue to : 2. The Exponential Trendline of Economic Growth


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