Thinking about Accelerating Returns

The old story about the invention of chess is well known.

As legend has it, the emperor was so impressed with the game that he invited its creator to name his reward.  The inventor’s request seemed modest, he simply told the Emperor:

‘All I desire is some rice to feed my family.’ Since the emperor’s largess was spurred by the invention of chess, the inventor suggested they use the chessboard to determine the amount of rice he would be given. ‘Place one single grain of rice on the first square of the board, two on the second, four on the third, and so on,’ the inventor proposed, ‘so that each square receives twice as many grains as the previous.’

Hmmm … yes, there is a trick here

For the first half of the chessboard, the emperor had to pay 232 grains of rice, or about the equivalent of one field, but as the doubling continued, the total amount owed far exceeded all the rice that existed in the world. That, in essence, is the concept of accelerating returns. When growth is exponential, even seemingly insignificant trends can become predominant.

It is easy to think of this in terms of things, like grains of rice. But can you think about it in terms of value added? Exponential growth of the value that you get from a single unit of time?

Wow! That gets your attention!


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