4098316462_2846b60687So what do you know? Is there any measure to determine how much you know? If you needed to know something new would you know how to learn it?

Your answers to these questions matter more than any set of information that you memorized in school.

The reason is that the sum of knowledge is growing at an ever increasing rate.

The growing rate of knowledge was described by philosopher/inventor/genius Buckminster Fuller, whom you should learn about.

In his 1982 book “Critical Path” Fuller presented an analysis of collective knowledge based on scientific and technical milestones through history.

He assigned values to the earliest known innovations, tools of the Stone Age going back 3 million years, up to the year 1 CE and designated that value a “knowledge unit.”

Using that measure he found that it took about 1,500 years from 1 CE for that knowledge unit to double to 2 knowledge units.

It doubled again 250 years later to 4 knowledge units and again in 150 years, around the year 1900, to 8 knowledge units.

Other thinkers have used Fuller’s analysis to extrapolate that by the year 2000 collective human knowledge was doubling every year.curve1

Some observers project that with coming changes in our information networks, such as the internet of things (IOT), total knowledge doubling will occur on a daily or even hourly basis.

Using this system it follows that the pace at which human knowledge is accumulated is accelerating; not only is the amount of total knowledge increasing but also its rate of growth.

Is there a natural or functional limit to knowledge acceleration? We do not know.

In some respects self-knowledge is one of our areas of greatest ignorance.

Just months ago our species learned something new about ourselves – that each individual’s brain memory power is greater by an order of magnitude; a GFPneuronfactor of 10, than previously believed.

In 2015 Thomas Bartol and associates of the Salk Institute reported that the anatomic structures of the trillions of synapses in the brain support a carrying capacity measured in petabytes – millions of gigabytes.

This finding is important because in addition to the amount of available storage it reveals sophisticated synaptic processes that use probability to create and retrieve memory.

The fact that knowledge is increasing rapidly does not imply that our intelligence is unable to handle it.

Creating strategies for managing complex information is what intelligent organisms like us do.

The acceleration of human knowledge does imply that the primary skill of a future knowledge worker will be research, analysis and synthesis of the not-yet-known.

You will succeed at your job by finding relevant streams of data, turning it into meaningful information from which you will produce usable knowledge.

At present that set of intellectual skills is the realm of the expert who is typically hired as a consultant.

In the near future those forms of expertise will be the foundations of all knowledge work because every career will consist of navigating a steep learning curve in the face of the accelerating velocity of knowledge.

The knowledge that drives your field will have changed significantly by the time you start the job won via your degree.

Your core strength in that job will be your capability to learn.

You can hone that capability now in your work at OSU, but to do so you must color outside of the lines of specialization.

Here are three practical ways that you may ramp up your learning prowess.

First, treat all of your learning as valuable.  The process of learning anything strengthens your capabilities for learning something new.  It is short sighted to negate a learning experience just because you do not see value in the information. You are not a giant flash drive for storing information. You are a learning organism that can grow and adapt to changing conditions.

Second, broaden your range of learning. Mastering subjects in depth is powerful and so is challenging your mind with subjects outside of your specialty.  As the sum of human knowledge grows its complexity increases. Diversifying your learning experiences inculcates stronger strategies for managing complexity.

Third, plan to keep on learning. A degree is not a finishing line, it is a portal to new learning in new contexts. Set your sights on a continual path of life-long learning beyond any program or position and you will increasingly thrive in a world of complexity that many people find overwhelming.

Some time soon you will wake up each day to a job that is already obsolete, but you will not be obsolete because of your skill at navigating the raising rate of cognitive change.

Human knowledge is growing at a scale that is hard to measure and so are you.

 

Notes

1. Disinformation Alert!: As quickly as knowledge grows, disinformation spreads faster, even on the topic of knowledge.

A claim widely reported on the web is that IBM predicted that knowledge

doubling will increase to occur on an hourly basis. The re-telling’s of this this vary and are frequently referenced back to a web article by David Russell Schilling, Knowledge doubling every 12 months, soon to be 12 hours in which he writes;

“ According to IBM, the build out of  the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.”

Schilling links “IBM” in the sentence to a 2006 article from IBM; The toxic terabyte How data-dumping threatens business efficiency. On page 2 of that article is this sentence;

“It is projected that just four years from now, the world’s information base will be doubling in size every 11 hours.”

The IBM article says no more about this matter than that single sentence and does not reference any source for the projection. We have to treat that claim as anecdotal and not authoritative as it has been subsequently played out on the web.

Moreover, that article and claim are about the growth of digital data which is entirely separate from the knowledge acceleration concept based in Fuller’s analysis. Schilling misinterpreted the IBM document. Nothing in that document supports the claim that is presented in the title of his article.

Schilling is a credible writer and typically provides sources for his articles. Sadly, his erroneous article title has been takes as a demonstrated truth by not-credible media personalities such as Glenn Beck who opined on his talk show;

“IBM has just come out and said all of human knowledge soon will double every – think of this – all human knowledge will double every twelve hours.”

Beck was adlibbing live from Schilling’s story on an iPad and adding his own embellishments ad hoc.

The assumption of authority and facticity of this hourly doubling claim increases with each retelling. Of course, we know that IBM said nothing of the sort.

Anyone may quickly check the sources and find for themselves the basic misinterpretation. That popular pundits such as Beck and his production staff do not do such basic fact checking underscores the key point of my posted article above, that the intelligent uses of information and knowledge are based in research, analysis, and synthesis.

Basic Intelligence Skill: Before replicating a claim, be sure that you have check the sources for yourself.

Beck, G. (2014). Will human knowledge soon have the power to double every 12 hours?
http://www.glennbeck.com/2014/04/07/will-human-knowledge-soon-have-the-power-to-double-every-12-hours

IBM Global Technology Services. (2006). “The toxic terabyte How data-dumping threatens business efficiency.” http://www-935.ibm.com/services/no/cio/leverage/levinfo_wp_gts_thetoxic.pdf

Schilling, D.R. (2013). “Knowledge doubling every 12 months, soon to be 12 hours.”  Industry Tap into News. April 19. http://www.industrytap.com/knowledge-doubling-every-12-months-soon-to-be-every-12-hours/3950

Image Acknowledgements

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/44568283@N02/4098316462

curve.png
http://sustainablebenefits.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/curve.png

Pneuron.png
https://gl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurona#/media/File:GFPneuron.png

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