Singularity or Bust?

The 21st century is going to be a race. In one lane is some sort of Singularity; in the other, Nightfall. One will win and one will lose. There will be no silver medal. Either we will soon (perhaps before 2050) begin a transformation even more profound than the industrial revolution, which may make most of our current problems irrelevant, or we will stagger into a collapse like no other. It is hard to see how any intermediate outcome — a compromise, say, in which everyone gets a bit richer, China gradually overtakes the West, and things otherwise go on much as before — can work.

This means that the next forty years will be the most important in history.

That’s from Ian Morris’ new book, Why the West Rules–for Now. I stumbled across it by accident in a bookstore the other night (and snapped a picture of the quote with my iPhone because I couldn’t buy the book just then).

According to Morris, there’s no middle ground for innovation and progress in our future. No steadily rising tide that raises all boats. It’s either some kind of singularity-like transformation into a new age, or collapse.

I thought I’d post that as a follow-up to my post a while back about the acceleration of innovation, in which I talked about the ever-increasing speed of change, and the challenges it presents to innovators.

Morris is clearly a smart guy, and not what you would call a fringe thinker. Is he right?

If he is, that certainly changes my perspective on things.

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