April 30 2008 / by juldrich
Category: Business & Work Year: General Rating: 2 Hot
By Jack Uldrich
Cross-posted from www.jumpthecurve.net
As a result of my new book, I have been asked on a number of occasions to describe what I mean by the title: “jump the curve.”
It is a fair question and when answering it I like to recall the words of that old sage, Albert Einstein, who once said that if a person – especially a scientist or technologist – couldn’t explain what he or she was working on to an 8-year old child then that person was either a fraud or a charlatan.
It’s an excellent test and because I have both an 8 year-old daughter and a 6 year-old son, I decided to put the topic of my new book to this test. Liking a challenge, I decided to see if my youngest child could comprehend the idea of “jumping the curve.”
Without using an example in the book, I asked my son, who has yet to lose any of his teeth, whether he would rather receive a single dollar for every one of his 20 baby teeth or if he would instead prefer to receive a single cent for his first tooth and then have that penny double for the next 19 teeth?
Being fairly good at numbers and knowing that his dad often likes to trick him, my son selected the second option—the penny doubling. (cont.)
“Smart boy,” I proudly said. “Now, what if the tooth fairy gave you $5 per tooth?” (I was careful to suggest that I was not implying that the tooth fairy would leave him $5.) He pondered his options for a moment and, after calculating his total would come to $100, he selected the $5 option.
I asked him if he was sure and he confidently shook his head in the affirmative. “Well, son,” I replied, “I’m afraid that you have lost out on over $10,000.”
The look on his face was one of incredulousness, and that is precisely why I told him that he had to learn to “jump the curve.” Here’s how the chart reads:
1st tooth: 1 cent
2nd tooth: 2 cents
3rd tooth: 4 cents
4th tooth: 8 cents
5th tooth: 16 cents
6th tooth: 32 cents
7th tooth: 64 cents
8th tooth: $1.28
9th tooth: $2.56
10th tooth: $5.12
11th tooth: $10.24
12th tooth: $20.48
13th tooth: $40.96
14th tooth: $81.92
15th tooth: $163.84
16th tooth: $327.68
17th tooth: $655.36
18th tooth: $1310.72
19th tooth: $2621.44
20th tooth: $5242.88
Total: $10,485.75 … or more than $500 per tooth!
To explain the concept of “jumping the curve,” I then drew him a graph and said that before a person can profit from any exponential trend he must first understand where that trend. The skill, I noted, “could be as significant as the difference between getting only $5 for a tooth or receiving $500.”
My broader point, of course, was that exponential advances are occuring in a variety of fields, including information technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, robotics, brain scanning and even knowledge itself; and if he wanted to position himself for the future he would be wise to internalize this lesson now. The lesson is so important, I’d argue, that it is almost better than free money.
Interested in some other implausible ideas about the future? Check some of these past posts by Jack: