Introduction to Exponential Thinking – Part 1.1

Hey Reader! Welcome to our series on exponential technology, Exponential Thinking

[This series was originally written in January 2016] The beginning of the year is always a great time for reflection on the past, as well as a good look at where we are today. Those looking to create a better future for themselves use this time of year as the catalyst to make take the actions that will better themselves and others around them. Many of you may be starting diets, taking control of your food by getting into growing your own food, taking care of your body and mind with new workout routines, etc. 

Here at Trifecta, it’s really been quite a year! We’ve already passed the day when Back to the Future promised us we’d get hoverboards and we did end up getting them… although slightly more explosive than one would hope! That’s right, it is officially The Future.


New Technologies are Entering our Lives Everyday

We are at the start of a period of amazing technology that seems futuristic but stands to change our lives very soon. We look at these emerging technologies and begin thinking them within the context of aquaponics and a food secure future.  

Aquaponics as a technology and as a symbol of the food industry is an exponential technology. It is a very, very old technology, so it can be hard to tell. The story of aquaponics is really the story of food, and the story of food is the true story of humanity because it is the story of our shared evolution with all life on our planet.  

I felt it was appropriate to explore this story as we cross the threshold of the new year. I intend to demonstrate to you how we are all standing at the base of a massive exponential explosion in food productivity that will fundamentally improve our relationship with food forever. We are at the dawn of the new age, the fruit of the seed planted by our first farming ancestors over 15,000 years ago.  

In the next 10-20 years, the fruit of those ancient farmers will sprout seeds of its very own and we will reap an unprecedented increase in production. Even as populations explode, and cities expand and pop up all over the world, we will have more than enough food to go around. In fact, all the new cities that pop up to meet the exploding population will never even need to import any food as their food production systems will be built right into the urban architecture. No, this is not the ramblings of some optimistic hippy scientist. These are all real possibilities, based on long-term trend data and existing technology.

In order to explain exactly why feeding the world sustainably can be A LEGITIMATE REALITY in our lifetime, we will have to examine the root cause of the explosion in production we are looking at. We have to examine the power of exponential growth.

So What is Exponential Growth?

As human beings, exponential growth can be hard to understand on an intuitive level. We’re just not built to comprehend growth of that magnitude. It defies the logic of our ancient brains, which evolved to measure linear distances and timeframes in our immediate environment. But today, in a world of technology improving at an exponential pace, our original evolutionary programming is having a hard time keeping up.

The hardest part about exponential growth is that when you’re inside of it, it still seems like linear growth. This is because exponential growth is all about decreasing the time between improvements (plateaus), as well as increasing the value of each improvement (climbs). So even when you’re exploding in growth, it still feels like one logical step by step progression.

To make sense of all this, let’s look at a few growth charts.

Linear vs. Exponential Growth

Linear Growth

First, let’s look at linear growth.  

The Blue Line


That means for every 1 year, we progress in equal proportion to the year we start measuring:

Nice, seems like a fair amount of growth, as they say, any progress is good progress, right?


Now let’s stack that up againstlinear growth 10x, 1x

The Red Line


If we got 10 times better every year from the previous year.

Our blue 1x line is already starting to look pretty wimpy…

If our progress could be 10x, that would be amazing!


linear growth 50x, 10x, 1xNow let’s turn things up:  50x growth!

The Orange Line


This chart shows 10 years of growth where we get 50x better every year

This quickly dwarfs our previous growth lines, which seemed so reasonable at the time.

Now let’s add in the Exponential Curvelinear vs exponential growth

The Green Line


Exponential growth seems deceptively slow at first, but by year 9 we see the power of exponential growth take off, eclipsing even the impressive 50x growth

12 year all 4 exponential growthThis chart shows 12 years…This is
only two years later

Look at the pace of exponential growth skyrocketing, leaving even the titanic 50x growth in the dust!

This is why exponential growth is so incredibly powerful.  By year 15, even 50x growth is totally indistinguishable from the baseline of 0.


Planning for Reality – The S-Curve and Recursive Growth

Of course, these curves are idealized.  In real life, we have cycles that occur in the short term that play out. Cycles are made up of slow periods, plateaus, and spurts of growth climbs.  This is what it looks like when we lay the cyclical periods of plateaus and climbs over our exponential growth curve.

s curve courtesy of
(photo courtesy of

The S-curve is important in exponential growth because the plateaus (slow growth period of the cycle) are way longer in the beginning, and the climbs (fast growth period of the cycle) are way shorter.  As we get closer to the explosion point in the exponential growth line, the plateaus are far shorter and the climbs are far greater.  This is also known as recursive growth because each forward step makes the next step easier to accomplish.

Deceptive Growth – Why Did it Take So Long for Exponential Progress to Show Itself?

Humans have been inventing things for over 100,000 years.  It is one of the fundamental things that makes us human!  So why did it take until just now in the last few hundred years for there to be such huge growth spurts in our technology?  In economics, this is known as the deceptive growth phase. Let’s examine closely our exponential growth chart.

exponential deceptive phase

The Deceptive Phase is outlined in the rectangle. Remember, the Green Line is the exponential growth curve. Notice the extremely slow incline of the Green Line, trailing the Red Line (10x) until year 7, and under the Yellow Line (50x) until year 9.  Unless you are paying attention during these years, it is easy to see how the Green Line could go totally unnoticed until all of a sudden in year 10, when the Green Line is more than double the 50x Yellow Line. Two years after that, the Green Line is over four times the Yellow. You get the idea.

The Deceptive Phase is important in our understanding of exponential aquaponics because of its implications in industry. The deceptive phase means that big business companies ignore technologies that can upset the status quo before they even know the sky is falling.  The explosive growth of the Internet disrupted hundreds of industries because it grew deceptively slow at the beginning.  Then, all of a sudden, there were no more travel agents, no more CDs, and no need for cable with millions of hours of video content streaming online.  

Aquaponics is poised to exit its long deceptive phase and enter its explosive growth stage and disrupt many industries we take for granted, like food production via mono-crop farms, cross-country and intercontinental food transport, and processed foods.

In Part 1.2 of our exponential history, we’ll take a look at the history of food production and how aquaponics and similar technologies are about to create huge exponential leaps in our ability to produce large quantities of food.

If you can’t wait till next week you can read the full article here.


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