The Information Explosion

The Information Explosion

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1542-6.ch001

Abstract

This chapter lays the foundation for the conceptual framework by providing a background of the information explosion. The growth of information is examined from the year 1 AD to 2018 AD. The information explosion produced four major revolutions with intermediate contributions. The four information revolutions were identified by Peter Drucker as the invention of writing, the book, the printing press, and the computer age. This growth is delineated by the years in which information doubled. He compared the advent of the printing press (information revolution three) to the coming of age of the computer and the internet (the fourth of the four information revolutions). Each information revolution generated the need for allied industries. The massive growth of information may be coped with by becoming more effective and efficient learners and teachers.
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The Knowledge Explosion

Figure 1.

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The accumulation of information and the knowledge derived from it has been growing so rapidly that it resembles an explosion. Information is growing exponentially. As information is generated and accumulated at an ever-accelerating rate, it becomes increasingly difficult to turn this vast quantity of information into knowledge. It reminds one of the Jerry Reed song East Bound and Down in which the lyrics state “We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there.” We have much to learn and with no appreciable increase in brainpower or information processing capacity. The very nature of the information explosion demands that one finds a way to make learning more effective and efficient in the hope of making the most of that information and turn it into knowledge. Artificial intelligence can help find and make some degree of sense of it.

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Knowledge Doubling

The knowledge doubling curve, attributed to R. Buckminster Fuller in 1982 Lundell (2014) estimated that accumulated and transmitted human knowledge doubled in the year one AD. Another doubling took place about 1,500 years later. Then, another doubling occurred in about 250 years, in 1750. Yet another doubling happened in 1900, 150 years later. Current guesses at the beginning of the 21st century estimate the doubling to take place in one or two years. By 2017 the doubling was estimated to occur in approximately 12 hours (see Figure 2). Whether one agrees with these estimates is less important than the realization that there is an exponential growth rate in the accumulated information of humanity.

The computer and the Internet are not the first information revolution. Peter Drucker (1998) asserts that there were four information revolutions: the invention of writing, the book, the printing press, and the computer coupled with the Internet. With respect to the printing revolution, Drucker (1998) notes that

The most important lesson of the earlier information revolution may, however, be found in the fates and fortunes of its technologists. The printing revolution immediately created a new and unprecedented class of information technologists, just as the most recent information revolution has created any number of information businesses, MIS and IT specialists, software designers, and chief information officers. The IT people of the printing revolution were the early printers. Nonexistent—and indeed not even imaginable—in 1455, they flourished throughout Europe 25 years later and had become great stars. Unlike earlier craftsmen, they were great gentlemen. These virtuosi of the printing press were known and revered all over Europe, just as the names of the leading computer and software firms are recognized and admired worldwide today. Printers were courted by kings, princes, the pope, and rich merchant cities and were showered with money and honors. …Is there a lesson in this for today's information technologists, the CIOs in organizations, the software designers and developers, the devotees of Moore's Law? (pp. 8-9).

With the recognition that the aforementioned information revolutions had significant repercussions, it must be noted that other events contributed to the information explosion. The following table (Table 1) represents the view of the authors of Timelines of History: The ultimate visual guide to the events that shaped the world. Second edition, which provides one view of the knowledge explosion of which the invention of writing, the book, and printing are only three instances, but nevertheless important ones (The Smithsonian, 2018).

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