In 2011 several thought leaders at TEDxBrussels looked ahead 50 years into the future. One of the spreakers was Peter Hinssen – entrepreneur, advisor, keynote speaker and author on radical innovation, leadership and the impact of digital on society and business.
Peter Hinssen opened his keynote by stating: “I don’t believe in exponential. If I hear the word singularity again, I probably throw up”. The reaction of the audience was clear: many agreed (see video below).
If you don’t know what singularity means: a technological singularity is a hypothetical event, following the synergistic excelleration of science and technology, each in line with Moore’s Law. Yielding to an intelligence explosion, surpassing all current human control or understanding.
Hinssen does not believe in the technological singularity hypothysis. In stead he believes in the s-curve adoption model, also referred to as the model for innovation diffusion.
According to Hinssen technology will not advance in a straight upward motion. In stead it will follow a series of s-curves, each broken into four phases: introduction, growth, maturity and plateau/decline. Hinssen: “Once your market flips it is not about technology anymore, it is how you live technology”.
People who believe the singularity hypothesis is true often refer to the increased speed of adoptation of recent technology as proof. And more than once they have used the following examples from the music industry:
And they are right: the s-curves do get shorter. But where are we looking at? What if we did not isolate each event, but rather take a wider perspective:
The excelleration of the iPod now matches the growth phase of a normal s-curve. In the meanwhile we recognize that streaming music further undermines old business models, causing a decline. Hinssen might just be right.
Yet the s-curve does not always apply. If we were to look at the introduction of the electric car, launched first in 1895, we get a different picture:
The conclusion could be that the adepts of the s-curve adoption model catter for the social effects of technological innovation (adoption), far more than those that believe in the singularity hypothesis. I personally believe that technological disruption is inversely proportional to the social disruption it causes.