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Discontinuities

Evolutionary trends can be amazing to contemplate, especially exponential trends, but what about the changes wrought by new ideas? Such changes are potential discontinuities in society and in commerce. It may be fun to invent a slightly better printing press, but what happens when someone creates television?

In software engineering, there is a rule of thumb that every factor of 10 in quantity creates a qualitative difference. Earlier we suggested that processing power, storage capacity, and communications bandwidth would each improve by a factor of 1,000 over the next 15 years. These changes will create new kinds of experiences, not merely evolutionary changes in current modes of operation. In addition to these sorts of changes, there will be innovations we cannot envision. In the current heady explosion of the Internet, we frequently make the error of thinking that the World Wide Web is the final innovation in networking, and we forget that the Web is only a few years old. Five years from now, the Web may seem like a quaint idea.


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