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Technology and Disabilities in the Century Ahead

Technology and Disabilities in the Century Ahead
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Author(s): Ray Kurzweil (Kurzweil Technologies Inc., USA)
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 5
Source title: Encyclopedia of Distance Learning, Second Edition
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Patricia L. Rogers (Bemidji State University, USA), Gary A. Berg (California State University Channel Islands (Retired), USA), Judith V. Boettcher (Designing for Learning, USA), Caroline Howard (HC Consulting, USA), Lorraine Justice (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong) and Karen D. Schenk (K. D. Schenk and Associates Consulting, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch305


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I have been involved in inventing since I was five, and I quickly realized that for an invention to succeed, you have to target the world of the future. But what would the future be like? To find out, I became a student of technology trends and began to develop mathematical models of different technologies: computation, miniaturization, evolution over time. I have been doing that for 25 years, and it has been remarkable to me how powerful and predictive these models are. Now, before I show you some of these models and then try to build with you some of the scenarios for the future—and, in particular, focus on how these will benefit technology for the disabled—I would like to share one trend that I think is particularly profound and that many people fail to take into consideration. It is this: the rate of progress—what I call the “paradigmshift rate”—is itself accelerating. We are doubling this paradigm-shift rate every decade. The whole 20th century was not 100 years of progress as we know it today, because it has taken us a while to speed up to the current level of progress. The 20t h century represented about 20 years of progress in terms of today’s rate. And at today’s rate of change, we will achieve an amount of progress equivalent to that of the whole 20th century in 14 years, then as the acceleration continues, in 7 years. The progress in the 21st century will be about 1,000 times greater than that in the 20th century, which was no slouch in terms of change.

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