Home / Analysis / Exploding Exponentials

Exploding Exponentials

Exponential EffectsSplash went the icy cold water all over his body. My boss was participating in the ALS Ice Bucket challenge that has been sweeping across the US. Not many business people do that kind of thing, but I happen to be lucky to be working for a company that has an emphasis on charitable activities and that does fun things.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been dominated by celebrities such as movie stars, TV stars, rock stars, and athletic stars. I haven’t read much about businessmen joining in the charity fundraising unless they are tech stars such as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. Maybe I’m reading the wrong materials.

Now some folks have been complaining that people should just contribute to the cause without resorting to such silliness. While that would be the ideal, we unfortunately do not live in an ideal world, and if it takes such silliness to generate money, then so be it. This challenge certainly has generated a lot of response.

Whoever started this was a genius. The silliness challenges the manliness of men by asking them to endure ice and icy cold water cascading over their body or contribute $100 to the fundraising. The stunt has to be videotaped and posted to the Internet, maybe as proof of their manliness. But to explode the participation rate, the person has to nominate 3 other people to participate in the challenge. And to crunch the participation rate, the 3 nominees have 24 hours to do the stunt.

As an interesting experiment, I decided to see how the numbers work when a person nominates 3 people, and those 3 people each nominates 3 people, and so on in a cascading effect. Of course, if you have done any math, you will realize that there will be an exponential effect here. To do the math, you have to do 3 to the x power where the first power is zero on day one, 1 on day two, 2 on day 3, and so on. Let’s see if I can paste a screenshot of my calculations. Exponential 3s











As you can see, by day 10, close to 20,000 people have participated. On day 15, almost 5 million. Not shown here, but if you continue with the calculations, by day 21, 3.5 Billion has participated and on day 22, 10.5 Billion – but we only have 7 billion folks on the planet right now. (All of these numbers are quoted on a rough fashion, not on a precise level.) Such is the power of exponentials.

Now imagine a virus exploding onto the scene like this. Too scary to ponder so let’s move back to a lighter topic.

Probably by the time I started reading about this challenge, it was on its way to dying (ugh, there’s that scary thought again) because not everybody will want to participate. Supposedly this stunt began sometime in June and we’re now in August, way beyond 30 days.

By next week it will probably be quiet. But it was fun while it lasted.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *