Friday, July 08, 2005

The new dark age?

Jonathan Huebner is predicting an upcoming dark age. He claims that the rate of technological progress, rather than exponentially increasing, is actually slowing, and has been since the late 19th century.

I don't believe I've ever seen an article I disagree with more, his choice of metrics is dubious, and his conclusions are questionable...

Huebner bases his conclusions on his analysis of major innovations and scientific advances over time compared to world population, this seems to me to be a odd metric to choose. The world population has been steadily growing but as anyone that has ever managed a project can tell you, throwing more people at a problem will not necessarily mean that it gets solved faster. So why does he normalise against world population? Doing this is so obviously the wrong thing to do...

Huebner says,
We are approaching the 'dark ages point', when the rate of innovation is the same as it was during the Dark Ages, we'll reach that in 2024.
however does at least seem to realised that something is wrong with his conclusions, and contradicts himself a bit further down the article,
I'm certainly not predicting that the dark ages will reoccur in 2024, if at all...
Extrapolation of Huebner's innovation curve it appears that we have already made 85 per cent of the technologies that are economically feasible. This seems like a far fetched conclusion to reach, even based on his analysis.

While it is certainly true that in general you shouldn't necessarily extrapolate exponential growth curves towards a technological singularity, as many people have done in the past, I think such a singularity is more likely that a new dark age. Every year it is harder and harder to keep up with the bleeding edge of technology, even for those of us deeply involved with it. Anyone working in the high technology will tell you that Huebner's conclusions are bogus...