(Roughly) Daily

Your warranty is expiring…

Readers in and around Silicon Valley are only too familiar with “exponential growth”– the engine that powers (or supposedly will power) the hockey-stick growth described in business plan after business plan.  While that growth all too rarely actually materializes in new ventures, the phenomenon of exponential growth is very real…

Consider, for example, human death.  As Gravity and Levity notes:

What do you think are the odds that you will die during the next year?  Try to put a number to it — 1 in 100?  1 in 10,000?  Whatever it is, it will be twice as large 8 years from now.

This startling fact was first noticed by the British actuary Benjamin Gompertz in 1825 and is now called the “Gompertz Law of human mortality.”  Your probability of dying during a given year doubles every 8 years.  For me, a 25-year-old American, the probability of dying during the next year is a fairly miniscule 0.03% — about 1 in 3,000.  When I’m 33 it will be about 1 in 1,500, when I’m 42 it will be about 1 in 750, and so on.  By the time I reach age 100 (and I do plan on it) the probability of living to 101 will only be about 50%.  This is seriously fast growth — my mortality rate is increasing exponentially with age.

And if my mortality rate (the probability of dying during the next year, or during the next second, however you want to phrase it) is rising exponentially, that means that the probability of me surviving to a particular age is falling super-exponentially.

Read the rest of “Your Body Wasn’t Built to Last- A Lesson from Human Mortality Rates“…  (Thanks, Tim O’Reilly, for the tip.)

As we add another supplement to the morning’s pile, we might recall that it was on this date in 1962 that Nelson Mandela was arrested, then imprisoned at Johannesburg Fort.  While he was later moved to Robben Island, he was not released until 1990.

Nelson Mandela

Image via Wikipedia

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