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Home » Expand Your Imagination Exponentially: Jeff Bollow (Transcript)

Expand Your Imagination Exponentially: Jeff Bollow (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Jeff Bollow’s talk titled “Expand Your Imagination Exponentially” at TEDxDocklands conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


The Exponential Expansion of Human Imagination

So, I want to expand your mind literally. And I teach writing, so I mean literally, literally. We are about to enter the most extraordinary era in human history. Over the next 20, 30, 50 years, our world is going to experience a transformation on a scale beyond anything we can currently imagine.

And I don’t mean that to be trite or cliche. We actually can’t imagine it, because our brains have difficulty with a concept called exponential change. If you take a computer and you use that computer to build a better, faster computer, well that then becomes the baseline upon which you build the next iteration of better, faster, better, faster. So power and capacity double, and then double again, and then double again, and then double again.

And it multiplies exponentially until we reach some breakthrough technology that disrupts our current way of life, meaning there’s life before that technology and life after that technology, and we can never go back. We can’t imagine that breakthrough technology because we’re missing those interim steps. Our ability to imagine the future is limited by our current frame of reference.

When I was a kid in the 80s, the idea that I could have a device in my pocket that could answer any question I could think to ask in seconds was pure science fiction. It would have been crazy. It would have been unrealistic, because our frame of reference didn’t include the Internet. We tend to think of the future as today with faster gadgets, but that exponentially advancing technology means we’re seeing world-changing advances in a huge array of these disruptive technologies. 3D printing, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, robotics, synthetic biology, quantum computing, and on and on and on.

We can imagine change in each of those areas, but we have a hard time imagining the exponential change that comes from all of those technologies combined. I’ll give you an example. Earlier this year, a company in China 3D printed a five-story apartment building. Now from that, we can imagine how 3D printing might transform the manufacturing industry or the building industry.

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