April – Knowledge: The Doubling Curve

By Tony Shepley,

When Buckminster Fuller, the renowned 20th century inventor and visionary, developed the concept of “Knowledge Doubling Curve”, he noticed that up until the year1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II, knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Today, different types of knowledge have different rates of growth. For example, nanotechnology knowledge is doubling every two years, yet clinical knowledge is doubling every18 months. On average, human knowledge is doubling every 13 months! But what does the future hold? According to IBM, the pace could ultimately increase to a doubling of human knowledge in less than 24 hours! Now that is what we call drinking from a serious fire hose! A transition from the linear growth of human knowledge to the exponential growth of human knowledge has taken place. The old rules simply do not apply.

Author Clem Chambers, in a Forbes article on Amazon’s “Mechanical Turk”, believes leading edge computer technology will be combined with artificial intelligence, which would allow collective problem-solving to happen on a larger scale and the creation of vast amounts of data. 

In a lecture at Harvard University, neuroscientist Jeff Lichtman, who is attempting to map the human brain, has calculated that several billion petabytes of data storage would be needed to index the entire human brain. The Internet is currently estimated to be 5 million terabytes (TB) of which Google has indexed roughly 200 TB or just .004% of its total size. The numbers involved are astounding especially when considering the size of the human brain and the number of neurons in it. According to researchers, dealing with this information will necessitate the development of vastly more complex software, shareability, and artificial intelligence.

Most of the above came from an article I found by David Russell Schilling (Cornell educated writer and researcher). I find it fascinating. Data sorting is certainly our next challenge as the information highway pushes it to us at warp speed. At Shepley, we are heavily focused on systems, training and development to not only help us keep up, but to enable us to stay ahead. We are in the middle of a high speed Renaissance and the old saying from our friend Rick Grandinetti, sales and business motivator, comes to mind, “Even if you’re on the right track, if you’re not moving fast enough . . . you get hit from behind!” Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines, the race is on!


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