Models and Theories in Human-Computer Interaction/Technology and us - Kurzweil's law of accelerating returns

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The Law of Accelerating Returns[edit]

The Law of Accelerating Returns is a mathematical predictive simulation that the progress of technology is exponential, not linear. (Kurzweil, 2001) [1] Kurzweil tracked extensive data of biological and technical evolution in history and found that the growth has been increased (double) exponentially. As Moor’s law worked well playing a role of development indicator in the semiconductor industry, the Law of Accelerating Returns enables us to predict the speed of future development of new technology.

His point of view that sees Moor’s law as one of technology paradigm shifts (the fifth) in the history was interesting and plausible. The idea resembles Christensen’s technological S curves (Prescriptive S-Curve) that technology evolves with shifting multiple S-curves with different technologies (Christensen, 1997).[2]

Also, the fact that his measurement was based on the price performance was interesting. I agree the point that the driver of technology development could go economic reasons whether the tech brings money. In his article “Why the future doesn’t need us” at Wired, Bill Joy has pointed out such concern that the even botanical evolution of new species comes from economical reasons. (Bill, 2000)[3]

Hybrid thinking: combining biological and non-biological thinking in the brain[edit]

As a next paradigm shift, Kurzweil suggests a convergence of human brain and information in the cloud. The enabling technologies- nanorobotics in hardware and new algorism that mimics brain’s neocortex activities- are not Sci-fi anymore. He introduced some ongoing research to make this scenario come to reality. Human reverse engineering methods to track brain and small and powerful material that replace conventional transistor device, nanotube were talked in reality. (Kurzweil, 2014)[4]

Then, what should we do?[edit]

While studying about the topic, I enjoyed his ideas, but couldn’t help being pessimistic at the same time. The idea that control tower of our behaviors and perception is not completely operated by my own will makes me somehow creepy. Even ironically, as a business student studying an HCI course, I strive to learn how to make people accept the technology without hassles, by learning multiple theories such as TAM, or Norman’s Affordance. Another futurist, Bill has pointed out this situation as “asymmetric situation” that technology is so powerful, and the power is even beyond a nation’s. Markets are one of the strong force, so we lost the power to choose our future. However, he says that we can “steer” the future by improving technology in three categories, education, environment and public health. Also, he suggests creating regulations to control all the mass. (Bill, 2006)[5]


  1. Kurzweil, R. (2001, March 7). The Law of Accelerating Returns. Retrieved July 9, 2015, from
  2. Christensen, C. M. (1997). The Innovator’s Dilemma, Harvard Business School Press. Boston, MA.
  3. Bill, J. (2000). Why the future doesn’t need us. Nanoethics–the ethical and social implicatons of nanotechnology, 17-39. Wired 8 (04)
  4. Kurzweil, R. (2001, March 7). The Law of Accelerating Returns. Retrieved July 9, 2015, from
  5. Bill, J. (2006, February 1). What I'm worried about, what I'm excited about. Retrieved July 9, 2015, from