Smart Enough Not To Be Dumb

It is a trend that will eventually overwhelm everyone. You can’t stop it – it is like a run away train. You can’t contain it – it is beyond your control. The key is to learn how to be smart in a world where dumb will be normal.

Back in the early 1600s Sir Francis Bacon was thought to know everything a person could know. He was aware of, and master of all available human knowledge. From this point forward individual command of knowledge changed.

Buckminster Fuller developed the “Knowledge Doubling Curve.” His research concluded that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By 1950, knowledge was doubling every 25 years, and it is now believed that human knowledge is doubling every 13 months. Based on research by IBM, the progression of technological connection will lead to knowledge doubling every 12 hours in the near future.

“As the future unfolds, the knowledge you hold today will not be nearly as important as your ability to learn tomorrow.”

After World War II, it was estimated that expertise in a particular field of knowledge or study would be relevant for nearly 30 years. Expertise today will likely last for less than five years.  In fact, what you thought you knew might soon be irrelevant in 12 hours!

To begin understanding the scope of the exponential growth of knowledge, consider that the National Library of Congress contains 20 million books. Using that as a starting point, look at these facts about knowledge and information.

  • Every six hours, the NSA gathers data equivalent to what is stored in the entire Library of Congress.
  • One terabyte is equivalent to the annual world literature production.
  • One petabyte is equivalent to the content of all U.S. Academic libraries. The volumes would stretch the length of New Zealand.
  • There are 25 petabytes of data loaded onto the internet every day – the equivalent of 70 Library of Congress’s.
  • Human knowledge exceeds 295 exabyte’s. One exabyte would be equivalent to the diameter of the sun.
  • American households yearly consumption of data is 3.6 zettabytes! That is the equivalent of 10 billion 10 gigabyte cloud servers.

The volume and speed of information will continue to grow. We won’t be able to slow it down and the sheer volume may not only overwhelm us it will have the potential to paralyze us.

This presents us with a personal strategic inflection point – a point where the fundamentals of our daily lives are changing in such dramatic fashion if we don’t respond to them they may have a dramatic impact on the quality and trajectory of our lives.

How do we respond to the explosive growth of information and knowledge?

  1. Focus and simplify what you are doing. The first place to start is to focus on your most important roles. Invest your time and energy in building knowledge around supporting the roles you value most.
  2. Identify trusted resources. You will need expert advice and support across a variety of subject matters. There is no reason to do original research in areas beyond your primary area of interest, focus or expertise. Identify the thought leaders in areas of your personal interest and concern. Bookmark their blogs and subscribe to their updates.
  3. Build a strong foundation for what you believe. There will consistently be people who know more about a particular subject than you do. The sheer volume of what they know will press you to wonder if what you think to be true is true. Remember truth does not cease to be the truth just because it is ignored, misrepresented, or misunderstood.
  4. Commit to on-going and focused learning. Whatever your field of expertise it has the potential to be compromised or obsolete quickly. Build a plan for on-going skill and knowledge development.

“He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.”

—Thomas Jefferson

Question: What advice would you offer for dealing with this information explosion? You can leave a comment by clicking here.