Thursday, December 17, 2015

I Know Everything

Everyone loves statistics, so let's start out with a big one.  For 99.9% of human history, people have lived in the dark.  I'm not referring to physical light - rather, I am talking about the possession of knowledge.

When the Roman Empire collapsed, first the Western and then the Eastern parts, most of the scholarly pursuits of math, philosophy, and literature simply disappeared.  And we're not just talking about a short absence.  During a period of 700 hundred years (!), the furtherance of knowledge for most of humanity simply stopped.  If you want to know more, read about the Dark Ages.  Ignorance was so common within humanity for so long that the most learned people, excluding several sects of priests, had less education than a first grader of today.

But enough of history lessons; let's look at how things are today.  Up until about 2002, information and research were available mostly through hard copies - be they books, magazines, or other written media.  Remembering back to my days in college, when I needed to know something I cracked a book.  Sometimes I had multiple books and publications at my fingertips but each of them had to be viewed physically in order to locate the information relating to what I needed to know.  At the time, libraries had become very sophisticated and I remember how proud my University was that it had developed such an extensive, well catalogued collection.  However, the concept of using books was cumbersome even then.  There were only limited copies available so not all who wanted a volume could obtain it.  Also, the volumes were always degrading with use, were tough to search, and took a certain amount of endurance to physically move from point to point.

Even though the libraries in existence at the turn of the century were the pinnacles of human knowledge repository (my ancestors would have been amazed at the information available in print), that state was short lived.

During the year 2002, the company "Google" (ever hear of it) started to make waves.  This innovative service available through the still-new Internet was offering people a way to find ANY type of information instantaneously.  I don't have to say much about what Google has become, especially since some of you reading this post found it through the search engine.  Suffice it to say, the theory and practice behind what made Google the 8th Wonder of the World is now well known by all.

Today most adults who have computer access use one of thousands of tools to gather information, instantly, on every imaginable subject.  Children born after 1990 have never known an existence without unlimited access to information on any topic.  In less than 20 years, humans as a species have gained so much perpetual access to knowledge that a child of today, with a tablet, would have been the most knowledgeable person on Earth in 1990.  (At least if that tablet was plugged into the Internet of 2015!)

It's safe to say that most technologies in the world are developing at such a fast rate that understanding the future much beyond three years out is not really feasible.  However, one thing is for sure.  With a computing device and access to the Internet, I (and you too) can literally know everything.  All of the knowledge of humankind is available for consumption including over a trillion photographs - a picture is worth a thousand words after all.  Some of the knowledge may be protected or in another language.  Yet as WikiLeaks and other sources of information have shown us, nothing is truly unreachable.

As an individual, I've integrated the concept of instant access to information into the daily routine of my life.  Whereas 20 years ago I would have readily accepted the fact that I had to go to a library to look up a singular fact, I now get irritated when I can't find something in 10 seconds or less.  I can truly envision a day coming very soon where most of us will opt to have Internet access literally wired directly into our brain.  There is no real privacy anyway in the data driven world in which we live so why not opt for integrated access?

Today, more than any ancestor of mine dating back through history, I can truly say that "I Know Everything"!