The Coming Era November 2022

There are three concurrent technological revolutions in the early stages of taking effect on the world. Each of them present the potential to have a greater impact on the functioning of humankind than the prior ones. Those revolutions are: sustainable low marginal cost energy, applied biotechnology and artificial intelligence.

The hype right now is centered on artificial intelligence. Large language models and text to image models are starting to become useful. The user experience of applying artificial intelligence is reaching a point that nominally technical people can request access to OpenAI and benefit from the same modern AI tools as the most cutting edge researchers inside of research universities and trillion dollar technology companies.

While that hype is focused on AI, there are concurrent revolutions in sustainable low marginal cost energy and applied biotechnology that will have equally profound effects on how we live. Sustainable low marginal cost energy is growing faster than expert estimates every year, and the acceleration of that growth keeps accelerating. Basically, every time we make an optimistic prediction, it is exceeded in real world impact.

And applied biotechnology, such as mRNA therapies, are pulling us out of pandemics while concurrently presenting viable options for reducing harms from cancer, pneumonia, malaria, RSV and more. We currently possess vaccine candidates that are showing 80% or more effectiveness across most known diseases. It is now likely by 2040 that we will reach the boring and profound end of protein-based disease.

We are rapidly hurtling towards a brave new world. The three concurrent revolutions will start to feed into one another. AI is being used by increasingly sophisticated deep learning models to predict protein folding and optimize the way that carbon lattice is constructed on solar panels for maximal energy capture. Each one is going to start having profound effects on the way we live, and has already in ways we can’t predict.

I’ve encouraged friends and colleagues to consider these values:

We can look at the accelerating progress in each of these areas and attempt to understand the implications it will have on us. But in the midst of accelerating technological progress, progress that the world has arguably not seen since the industrial revolution, it is easy to become cynical and distracted. The great challenge is to hold on long enough to see the benefits of the long term compounding unfold.