The pace of change

The first humans appeared on Earth roughly 2,00,000 years ago. It took them more than 1,50,000 years to develop language capabilities, i.e. the ability to communicate. They began migrating about the same time. It took them another 35,000 years to cover almost all continents, when they finally reached even Australia.

And despite having taken so much time to even cover one planet, we were nowhere near any development as we understand it today. You see we moved past stone tools only some 7,000 years ago! And that was only towards copper and bronze. It took another 3,500 years to reach the Iron Age. It was around this time that the first human civilisation evolved in Mesopotamia.

This short history has been stated to drive home a point. I don’t know whether you noticed – but each successive milestone mentioned above took lesser time than the last one. We were reaching a new milestone in practically less than half the time we took for the last one.

Now there’s a reason to this. Do you remember how you spent the first year at school learning just the alphabets and numbers? The next year, you learned reading – making sense of all these alphabets and numbers into meaningful sentences and reading them out loud – a hell of an achievement compared to learning the alphabets.

And then in no time, you slowly moved into learning complex subjects and concepts – packing five or six of them in a year! This is no surprise. Every incremental growth that any human or any society goes through depends on its existing base. And that base depends on past such growths. Growth is usually exponential on these bases, and not linear.

And perhaps this also explains why a greater proportion of individuals graduating from the best of universities see success than the proportion of individuals graduating from average colleges reaching the same level of success. A number of Harvard graduates have been US presidents!

Since humans continually kept improving in lesser and lesser time in their evolutionary road, we have now reached a stage where massive changes are seen in societies and ways of living decade on decade rather than taking centuries or millenniums.

Since humans continually kept improving in lesser and lesser time in their evolutionary road, we have now reached a stage where massive changes are seen in societies and ways of living decade on decade rather than taking centuries or millenniums. The introduction of 1G, i.e. wireless telephone technology (connecting over analog calls on mobile phones) was in the mid-1980s (that is only 3 decades). It was seen as ground-breaking and earth-shackling then!

Fast forward to 2020, it is outdated already. We are already geared up for 5G, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data. And only conservative estimates can be made of the what the future holds, and how soon!

This change is not confined to technology alone. It encompasses a number of fields. Like women rights for instance, or racism, or human rights or any other societal issues for that matter – voices against them and voices in favour of them – both have grown in an exponential manner – and what may seem sudden right now had long been coming!

Armed with all this information of how change chooses its speed and what phase we are in right now, I have a little activity for you to try – when you read any news or study any ‘new’ trend after this – just try and reflect for a while – how long had this been coming?

With a few days of practice – you might just learn assess the present situation to get a peek into the future! And there is little this insight cannot do for you – you might just get the next big start-up idea, or an investment idea, or you may just decide to skill yourself right for what’s coming, you might just give your children some better and more relevant parenting – the options are practically limitless.


If you liked this, you may also want to read: Post-pandemic future of business.