As discussed on the podcast a couple of weeks ago human capability is exploding. There are two major components of this rapid growth.
Our best-case capability, meaning the cutting-edge achievements that occur on the margins. Human capability includes every Olympic record ever set. It includes massive accomplishments such as traveling to the moon and building the Great Wall of China.
The distribution of capability, wherein capability that once belonged only to extreme outliers and powerful institutions becomes the domain of an increasingly generalized population. Film making is a good example of how capability is distributed. Imagine the resources that would have been required, 65 years ago, to make and widely distribute a 10-minute documentary film with nice titles and a background musical score. Only large corporations (or the government) could accomplish such a thing. Today grade-schoolers can do it, and they do. As we’ll see, this second factor becomes more important over time, especially in our current era.
Let’s compare human capability in two domains over the past 20,000 years. The domains are power, which we will measure in terms of the maximum mass that can be moved and the maximum speed for travel, and communication, which we will measure in terms of the number of options available for encoding and transmitting messages.