Amara’s Law and Martin’s Corollary

Roy Amara was apparently the person who said “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” It’s a great observation, but my friend Charles Martin gave me an even better twist on it: “Change happens exponentially but we think linearly.” This is clearly a more specific statement, but, to someone used to thinking in mathematical terms, it gives a strong image of the relative adoption curves.

The reason I like Charles’s version so much, though, is that it also captures the seeds of a reason behind it: spread of a technology is often exponential because, like a disease, we have a probability of transmission from one person to surrounding people. As the “infected” population grows, so does the rate of adoption.