A theme I have been reading a lot about lately is ‘exponential growth’. It might become THE most important theme of 2014.
In Dan Brown’s bestseller ‘Inferno’ the exponential growth of the world’s population is the central dilemma. For thousands of years, the growth of the population has been linear, and the last 100 years it has been going through the roof. This is a negative example of exponential growth. Is the world getting so crowded that you could compare it with Dante’s Inferno? Everybody who has ever been to a shopping mall on a Saturday knows that Brown’s fears are justified. The horror. The horror.
In ‘The Second Machine Age’, an insightful work about the new economy and the rise and impact of brilliant technologies, exponential growth of technology is explained. Moore’s Law states that computer power doubles every year (the amount of computer power you can buy for one dollar). According to the authors, we have now reached a point were technological progress will spiral faster into regions previously undreamed of. Because many brilliant technologies are affordable for even the smallest of companies, which they can use to create groundbreaking new inventions. The technological innovation we have seen so far is just the beginning. This expected revolution is mostly positive, although disrupting technologies also have a (temporarily) negative effect on employment markets and incomes.
A personal experience involving exponential growth is my Twitter account. For years, I had a steady growth of a follower once in a while, but lately, it is going much faster. I am now close to reaching a thousand followers. Off course this is nothing compared to many Twitterers I follow. 100K followers / 220K following / 66K tweets. These are normal numbers in the bizarre world of Twitter.
It is only logical that growth of followers becomes exponential after a while, but you do have to put effort in it. The more you tweet, and the more people you follow, the more lists you will appear on. And if your profile is attractive, the Twitterers on whose list you appear will follow you (back). It’s like digital dating, only the relations are mostly brief. The more people you follow, the less of their content will appear on your radar. I follow 1200 people and every 2 seconds a new tweet appears on my timeline. So I probably see about 0,01 percent of all the tweets posted if I spend five minutes a day on Twitter. If you really want to actually follow somebody, you better limit your following-list to maybe 10 or 20 people.
But nobody does that. Why not? For most people, Twitter is not about following, but about being followed. Everybody wants their message to be heard, so they figure they need a lot of followers for that. The problem is that if everybody increases their follower list, nobody will read each other tweets, because they are too busy posting. Still, watching the rapid growth of followers on Twitter is interesting. In a few years, there will be many Twitterers with literally millions of followers, and others – like me – will have thousands. Maybe it’s not so valuable, but it is a fascinating process to follow.