Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Assumption 6 – The fallacy of the singularity and the fallacy of simple linear progression – finding a middle ground

Posted in book recommendations, reexamining the fundamentals, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on February 27, 2010

I step back with this assumption and raise a fundamental question as to what our fundamental assumptions are per se. I am looking at a book from my professional library as I write this:

• Kurtzweil, Ray. (2005) The Singularity is Near: when humans transcend biology. Penguin Books.

I have found this book both thought provoking and in many ways quite insightful but add that one of the issues I have found it provoking me to reconsider is the basic concept of singularity as a real-world event in our development and in that of our technologies. The book is a great read for this as a stereotypical model of development but with the possible exception of event horizons and black holes, real singularities always seem to be more illusory than real with less than infinitely sharp turns and dislocations actually occurring.

So we like to think in terms of singularities as marking major change. At the same time we all tend to think day to day and in most of our longer time frames as well, in terms of simple linear progressions and in terms of simple evolutionary change. We do this in our personal lives and in our businesses with our planning and goals and priorities setting. We do this when setting and evaluating possible strategies and strategic goals as well as operationally. Even a casual reading of a book like:

• Christensen, C.M. (1997, 2000) The Innovator’s Dilemma. Harper Business.

and its case studies should be enough to illustrate the fact that simple linear can work for a while but that if this is all you do, you will see your wheels leave the road eventually, and with certainty.

I use that wheels metaphor with specific intent. There is a road in Australia that extends for well over a 100 miles without the slightest of turns – a completely linear driving experience. At the end of this stretch of seemingly endless linearity, there is a spot in this road called Dead Man’s Curve for the number of drivers who have sailed over the edge when reaching it. This, I add is something less than a 15 degree turn so even a slight wheel adjustment could keep you on track and on the pavement. Linear thinking comes from linear experience and that can end before the matching thinking – and doing finish.

Linearity and singularity as our two basic choices on the menu are easy but they are fascicle and simplistic too. I set this series up with evolutionary and revolutionary as the basic two menu item alternatives but here with posting 6, and in the precise middle of this set of 11 I raise this basic reality check question. Do we need a more nuanced way to even approach questions like the ones I am raising? Do we need a more nuanced approach than this in our operational and strategic planning and execution in general? I simply leave this as an open issue to think about.

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  1. … ] link is being shared on Twitter right now. @zenx, an influential author, said RT @1ndus: Xtreme … ]

  2. […] Right in the middle of my assumptions postings with number 6 of 11, I posted a cautionary note for me to keep in mind in this, if for no other reason with Assumption 6 – The fallacy of the singularity and the fallacy of simple linear progression – fin…. […]


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