first square of the chessboard

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pages: 72 words: 21,361

Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution Is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy by Erik Brynjolfsson

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Amazon Mechanical Turk, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, autonomous vehicles, business process, call centre, combinatorial explosion, corporate governance, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, easy for humans, difficult for computers, Erik Brynjolfsson, factory automation, first square of the chessboard, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, hiring and firing, income inequality, intangible asset, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Joseph Schumpeter, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, labour mobility, Loebner Prize, low skilled workers, minimum wage unemployment, patent troll, pattern recognition, Paul Samuelson, Ray Kurzweil, rising living standards, Robert Gordon, self-driving car, shareholder value, Skype, too big to fail, Turing test, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, wealth creators, winner-take-all economy, zero-sum game

It comes from an ancient story about math made relevant to the present age by the innovator and futurist Ray Kurzweil. In one version of the story, the inventor of the game of chess shows his creation to his country’s ruler. The emperor is so delighted by the game that he allows the inventor to name his own reward. The clever man asks for a quantity of rice to be determined as follows: one grain of rice is placed on the first square of the chessboard, two grains on the second, four on the third, and so on, with each square receiving twice as many grains as the previous. The emperor agrees, thinking that this reward was too small. He eventually sees, however, that the constant doubling results in tremendously large numbers. The inventor winds up with 264-1 grains of rice, or a pile bigger than Mount Everest. In some versions of the story the emperor is so displeased at being outsmarted that he beheads the inventor.


pages: 464 words: 116,945

Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism by David Harvey

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accounting loophole / creative accounting, bitcoin, Branko Milanovic, Bretton Woods, BRICs, British Empire, business climate, California gold rush, call centre, central bank independence, clean water, cloud computing, collapse of Lehman Brothers, colonial rule, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, demographic dividend, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, drone strike, end world poverty, falling living standards, fiat currency, first square of the chessboard, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, Food sovereignty, Frank Gehry, future of work, global reserve currency, Guggenheim Bilbao, Gunnar Myrdal, income inequality, informal economy, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, Joseph Schumpeter, Just-in-time delivery, knowledge worker, low skilled workers, Mahatma Gandhi, market clearing, Martin Wolf, means of production, microcredit, new economy, New Urbanism, Occupy movement, peak oil, phenotype, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, quantitative easing, rent-seeking, reserve currency, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Ronald Reagan, short selling, Silicon Valley, special economic zone, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, transaction costs, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, wages for housework, Wall-E, women in the workforce, working poor, working-age population

For the first twenty years of a thirty-year mortgage the principal still owed declines very slowly. The decline then accelerates and over the last two or three years the principal diminishes very rapidly. There are a number of classic anecdotes to illustrate this quality of compounding interest and exponential growth. An Indian king wished to reward the inventor of the game of chess. The inventor asked for one grain of rice on the first square of the chessboard and that the amount be doubled from one square to the next until all the squares were covered. The king readily agreed, since it seemed a small price to pay. The trouble was that by the time it came to the twenty-first square more than a million grains were required and after the forty-first square (which required more than a trillion grains) there simply was not enough rice in the world to cover the remaining squares.

To keep to a satisfactory growth rate right now would mean finding profitable investment opportunities for an extra nearly $2 trillion compared to the ‘mere’ $6 billion that was needed in 1970. By the time 2030 rolls around, when estimates suggest the global economy should be more than $96 trillion, profitable investment opportunities of close to $3 trillion will be needed. Thereafter the numbers become astronomical. It is as if we are on the twenty-first square of the chessboard and cannot get off. It just does not look a feasible growth trajectory, at least from where we sit now. Imagined physically, the enormous expansions in physical infrastructures, in urbanisation, in workforces, in consumption and in production capacities that have occurred since the 1970s until now will have to be dwarfed into insignificance over the coming generation if the compound rate of capital accumulation is to be maintained.


pages: 138 words: 40,787

The Silent Intelligence: The Internet of Things by Daniel Kellmereit, Daniel Obodovski

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3D printing, Airbnb, Amazon Web Services, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, business intelligence, call centre, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, commoditize, connected car, crowdsourcing, data acquisition, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, first square of the chessboard, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, Freestyle chess, Google X / Alphabet X, Internet of things, lifelogging, Metcalfe’s law, Network effects, Paul Graham, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Robert Metcalfe, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, smart cities, smart grid, software as a service, Steve Jobs, web application, Y Combinator, yield management

Below is a well-known story, popularized by Ray Kurzweil and retold as we know it, that illustrates the power of exponential growth. In ancient China a man came to the emperor and demonstrated to him his invention of the game of chess. The emperor was so impressed by the brilliance of the man’s invention that he told the man to name his reward. The man asked for his reward in an amount of rice — that one grain be placed on the first square of the chessboard, two on the second, four on the third, and so on — doubling the number of grains on each subsequent square. Not being a very good mathematician, the emperor at first thought the reward to be too modest and directed his servants to fulfill the man’s request. By the time the rice grains filled the first half of the chessboard, the man had more than four billion rice grains — or about the harvest of one rice field.


pages: 344 words: 94,332

The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity by Lynda Gratton, Andrew Scott

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3D printing, Airbnb, assortative mating, carbon footprint, Clayton Christensen, collapse of Lehman Brothers, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, delayed gratification, diversification, Downton Abbey, Erik Brynjolfsson, falling living standards, financial independence, first square of the chessboard, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, future of work, gender pay gap, gig economy, Google Glasses, indoor plumbing, information retrieval, intangible asset, Isaac Newton, job satisfaction, low skilled workers, Lyft, Network effects, New Economic Geography, old age dependency ratio, pattern recognition, pension reform, Peter Thiel, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Florida, Richard Thaler, Second Machine Age, sharing economy, side project, Silicon Valley, smart cities, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, The Future of Employment, women in the workforce, young professional

In other words, just as computing power doubles every two years, so the number of grains of rice doubled with the move from each square. In the fable, the king soon realized that he didn’t have enough grains of rice to meet the challenge, running out before the thirtieth square (before the second half of the chessboard). To meet the inventor’s demand the king would have to provide a mountain of rice larger than Mount Everest – nearly 18.5 quintillion grains. On the first square of the chessboard there is one grain of rice, and by the 33rd square the number is 4.3 billion. The parallel with Moore’s Law is obvious. Back in 1981, Bill Gates said 640K of computer memory should be enough for anyone; thirty years later not only do computers have huge processing power, but also the increase that will happen in the next two years is enormous compared to cumulative past progress. The increase in processing power going from the 32nd chess square to the 35th is worth four times the cumulative sum of processing power across the first 32 squares.


pages: 323 words: 90,868

The Wealth of Humans: Work, Power, and Status in the Twenty-First Century by Ryan Avent

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3D printing, Airbnb, American energy revolution, assortative mating, autonomous vehicles, Bakken shale, barriers to entry, basic income, Bernie Sanders, BRICs, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, collective bargaining, computer age, creative destruction, dark matter, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, dematerialisation, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Donald Trump, Downton Abbey, Edward Glaeser, Erik Brynjolfsson, eurozone crisis, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, falling living standards, first square of the chessboard, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, Ford paid five dollars a day, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, future of work, gig economy, global supply chain, global value chain, hydraulic fracturing, income inequality, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, intangible asset, interchangeable parts, Internet of things, inventory management, invisible hand, Jacquard loom, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, knowledge economy, low skilled workers, lump of labour, Lyft, manufacturing employment, Marc Andreessen, mass immigration, means of production, new economy, performance metric, pets.com, price mechanism, quantitative easing, Ray Kurzweil, rent-seeking, reshoring, rising living standards, Robert Gordon, Ronald Coase, savings glut, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, single-payer health, software is eating the world, supply-chain management, supply-chain management software, TaskRabbit, The Future of Employment, The Nature of the Firm, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade liberalization, transaction costs, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Uber and Lyft, Uber for X, very high income, working-age population

In an influential 2012 book, Race Against the Machine, two MIT scholars of technology and business, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, argue that people aren’t very good at assessing the pace of exponential technological progress (for example, the repeated doubling in microchip power described by Moore’s law).11 They borrow a parable popularized by the futurist Ray Kurzweil.12 In the legend, a wise man invents the game of chess and presents it to his king. Pleased, the king allows the man to name his reward. The wise man responds that he wishes only modest compensation, following a simple rule. He would have one grain of rice on the first square of the chessboard, two on the second, four on the third, and so on, doubling each time for each of the sixty-four squares. The king chuckles at the apparent measliness of these amounts and says yes. It soon becomes clear that he has made quite a big mistake. After two rows the king owes nearly 33,000 grains of rice and is not chuckling quite so much. By the last square of the first half of the chessboard the amount involved is enormous, totalling more than 2 billion grains, or nearly 100,000 kg, of rice – but it is not yet absurd.


pages: 515 words: 126,820

Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World by Don Tapscott, Alex Tapscott

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Airbnb, altcoin, asset-backed security, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, bitcoin, blockchain, Bretton Woods, business process, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carbon footprint, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, disintermediation, distributed ledger, Donald Trump, double entry bookkeeping, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, ethereum blockchain, failed state, fiat currency, financial innovation, Firefox, first square of the chessboard, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, future of work, Galaxy Zoo, George Gilder, glass ceiling, Google bus, Hernando de Soto, income inequality, informal economy, information asymmetry, intangible asset, interest rate swap, Internet of things, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, Lean Startup, litecoin, Lyft, M-Pesa, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, microcredit, mobile money, money market fund, Network effects, new economy, Oculus Rift, off grid, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer, peer-to-peer lending, peer-to-peer model, performance metric, Peter Thiel, planetary scale, Ponzi scheme, prediction markets, price mechanism, Productivity paradox, QR code, quantitative easing, ransomware, Ray Kurzweil, renewable energy credits, rent-seeking, ride hailing / ride sharing, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Satoshi Nakamoto, Second Machine Age, seigniorage, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart contracts, smart grid, social graph, social software, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, TaskRabbit, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, The Nature of the Firm, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, Turing complete, Turing test, Uber and Lyft, unbanked and underbanked, underbanked, unorthodox policies, wealth creators, X Prize, Y2K, Zipcar

Interview with Constance Choi, April 10, 2015. 73. The digital revolution has moved on to “the second half of the chessboard”—a clever phrase coined by the American inventor and author Ray Kurzweil. He tells a story of the emperor of China being so delighted with the game of chess that he offered the game’s inventor any reward he desired. The inventor asked for rice. “I would like one grain of rice on the first square of the chessboard, two grains of rice on the second square, four grains of rice on the third square, and so on, all the way to the last square,” he said. Thinking this would add up to a couple bags of rice, the emperor happily agreed. He was misguided. While small at the outset, the amount of rice escalates to more than two billion grains halfway through the chessboard. The final square would require nine billion billion grains of rice—enough to cover all of Earth. 74.


pages: 578 words: 168,350

Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies by Geoffrey West

Alfred Russel Wallace, Anton Chekhov, Benoit Mandelbrot, Black Swan, British Empire, butterfly effect, carbon footprint, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, clean water, complexity theory, computer age, conceptual framework, continuous integration, corporate social responsibility, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, dark matter, Deng Xiaoping, double helix, Edward Glaeser, endogenous growth, Ernest Rutherford, first square of the chessboard, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, Frank Gehry, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, Guggenheim Bilbao, housing crisis, Index librorum prohibitorum, invention of agriculture, invention of the telephone, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John von Neumann, Kenneth Arrow, laissez-faire capitalism, life extension, Mahatma Gandhi, mandelbrot fractal, Marchetti’s constant, Masdar, megacity, Murano, Venice glass, Murray Gell-Mann, New Urbanism, Peter Thiel, profit motive, publish or perish, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Florida, Silicon Valley, smart cities, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the scientific method, too big to fail, transaction costs, urban planning, urban renewal, Vernor Vinge, Vilfredo Pareto, Von Neumann architecture, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, wikimedia commons, working poor

Here’s a version of the story: When the inventor of chess showed the game to the king, the ruler was so taken by it that he asked the inventor to name his reward for creating such a marvelous and challenging game. The man, who was mathematically inclined, asked the king for what seemed to be an extremely modest reward in the form of grains of rice. However, these were to be apportioned in the following manner: he would receive 1 grain of rice on the first square of the chessboard, 2 grains on the second, 4 on the third, 8 on the fourth, 16 on the fifth, and so on, doubling the amount for each progressive square. The king, though somewhat offended by such an apparently measly response to his very generous offer, reluctantly accepted the inventor’s request and ordered the treasurer to count out the grains of rice as prescribed by the inventor. However, when the treasurer had not completed the assignment by the end of the week, the king called him to task and asked him the reason for his extreme tardiness.