Although my new book, Jump the Curve, won’t be officially released until February of 2008, I have been asked on a number of occasions to describe what I mean by the term “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 in a way that that child could understand, then the 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 next book to this test. Liking a challenge, I decided to see if my youngest child could comprehend this 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 prefer instead 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, he selected the second option—the penny doubling.
“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, 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 in credulousness, and that is precisely why I told him that he had to learn to “jump the curve.” Here’s how the chart looks:
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 the graph below and said that before a person can profit from any exponential trend he must first understand that trend. More important, however, he must understand where that trend is headed because a person can only jump the curve by seeing where it ultimately takes you. The skill I continued “could be as significant as the difference between getting only $5 for a tooth or receiving $500.”
My broader point, of course, was to encourage him to keep a very open mind about his future because exponential advances are occuring in a variety of fields, including information technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, robotics, brain scanning and even knowledge itself, and if one charts where these trends are headed they could take us places that not even the tooth fairy could dream of going.
Jack Uldrich is a writer, futurist, public speaker and host of jumpthecurve.net. He is the author of seven books, including Jump the Curve and The Next Big Thing is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change the Future of Your Business. He is also a frequenter speaker on future trends, innovation, change management and executive leadership to a variety of businesses, industries and non-profit organizations and associations.