Gradually, Then Suddenly

Several years ago I was listening to a podcast where someone mentioned how change happens slowly, and then all at once. The phrase has stuck with me. I looked it up and the quote is attributed to John Green by way of Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises where he wrote, "Gradually, then suddenly" as an answer to the question, "How did you go bankrupt?"

I think about this concept a lot with regards to how we experience things. Within technology, we are beginning to see how AI is permeating our daily lives in small ways. Search results are changing with Google Bard, auto-complete populates our emails and documents, recommendations about what content to watch or read are surfaced to us in every nook and cranny of the internet, and we are beginning to engage with new chatbots to ask questions, get answers, do work, save time and get inspired. These changes have been happening for a while, but they are beginning to compound and rapidly accelerate, becoming omnipresent in our lives.

It feels something like an exponential curve.

A Midjourney image from the prompt: "A simple graph of an exponential curve with no labels on the x and y axes"

More than ever, it seems we are experiencing this type of change across so many different vectors.

The list goes on and on, and the pace of change in our world continues to accelerate. These are changes that are hard to recognize in the moment, but are always abundantly clear as they inflect and in retrospect. The thing that's helped me most in navigating these times is practicing mindfulness (I really like the Waking Up app by Sam Harris) and finding the time to slow down and observe things as they are. When it comes to building and changing things, a nice complement to "Gradually, then suddenly" is the Bill Gates quote: "people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years." It's hard to change the way things work quickly, but grit pays off in the long run.

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