Google’s genius futurist uses this zany Asian folktale to explain how technology will rule the future

June 9, 2015

Humanity has a problem. It’s linear. Technology, on the other hand, is exponential. Take it from Ray Kurzweil, the bestselling author, futurist, and Google chief engineer.

The tale of the inventor of chess and his patron, the Emperor of China: In response to the emperor’s offer of a reward for his new beloved game, the inventor asked for a single grain of rice on the first square, two on the second square, four on the third, and so on.

The emperor quickly granted this seemingly benign and humble request. One version of the story has the emperor going bankrupt as the 63 doublings ultimately totaled 18 million trillion grains of rice.

At ten grains of rice per square inch, this requires rice fields covering twice the surface area of Earth, oceans included. Kurzweil contends that we’re in the middle of that chessboard. […]

related reading:
Wikipedia | Wheat and chessboard problem
Singularity Symposium | Exponential growth and the legend of Paal Paysam

related viewing:

Mike Nickerson | This video describes how it is possible that humanity has come to touch planetary limits.