Why HB Bets on Clean-Tech – and why the revolution is hard to see when you’re in it

Swimming in beer at Fenway Park

The Boston Red Sox play at a cathedral of a field… Fenway Park. If you’re from the Northeast, you’ve probably visited the park for a game or a tour. And if you’ve been there on a summer day, baking in the sun, sweat on your brow and shirt sticking to you and your bleacher seat, you appreciate an ice-cold beer.

Now imagine you’ve been handed an empty cup and your ice-cold beer is merely dripping into it, one drop at a time. Pretend that the content of the cup doubles every minute.

At first, watching it becomes unbearable as your thirst grows, and it looks like the cup will take forever to fill. After six minutes, there is barely a gulp of beer sloshing around the bottom of the cup. But at 10 minutes the cup overflows. After 20 minutes a thin layer of beer covers the bottom of the park, as if a quick rain shower just swept through. Forty-five minutes into this experience, the players on the field are knee-deep in beer. You might think the game will end long before any noticeable difference, but four minutes later, the park is completely full and you’re swimming in ice-cold beer. Forty-nine minutes to fill Fenway Park to the top of the Green Monster. This is the power of exponential growth.

This is a new take on an old example, used in many physics classes. We need such examples because humans have trouble thinking in exponential terms. As one University of Colorado Physics professor is known to have said, “the greatest shortcoming of the human race is the inability to understand exponential function.”

Why does this matter? Because certain markets that have become governed by IT-driven innovation, such as healthcare and technology, are now benefitting from exponential advancements in the same way that computing hardware has evolved according to Moore’s law (which says that the numbers of transistors on integrated circuits doubles every two years).

The human genome example

Inventor and best-selling author Ray Kurzweil uses this example to explain what he calls the exponential growth paradigm. Scientists began mapping the human genome in 1990. Seven years into the project, they had mapped only one percent of the genome. Based on that start, even scientists concluded that it would take roughly 600 years to complete the map. But in fact it took only another six, which makes sense given that, exponentially, 100 is about a six-and-a-half fold increase when you start doubling from one.

What does this have to do with clean-tech?

Clean-tech progress in efficiency and scale is moving at the same speed other technology has moved. Right now solar, wind and geothermal energy sources generate roughly one percent of global energy use. What will this look like even just five short years from now? Grab a cold one, sit back and watch – it’s going to be a fun game.

Mower

About Mower Boston

Boston's Mower office is a full-service technology marketing, PR and branding agency. Our B2B stories illustrate projects and campaigns in a variety of markets and media that range from local impact in Boston and New England to global proportions.

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