“Knowledge shall increase”
IT IS WITH GOOD CAUSE that the term “information overload” was coined in recent years. If the amount of information that is available is an indication of the knowledge available, knowledge has increased within our generation almost beyond imagination! Here are just a few mind-boggling facts on this:
The total amount of the world’s newly generated digital information is expected to have exploded by 60%—to 8 exabytes [in 2005] from 5 exabytes in 2003, according to figures and extrapolations developed by the University of California at Berkeley. That means that [in one year] the world will generate 57,000 times the total of all information in the Library of Congress.
An exabyte is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes, or 1 billion billion. All human spoken words in history are calculated to be 5 exabytes. Information in magnetic media (such as business digital information) account for more than 90% of this staggering total. U.C. Berkeley estimates that global information increases about 30% per year.72
Online information doubles every 6 months
Corporate information doubles every 18 months
Scientific information doubles every 5 years
Biological information doubles every 5 years
Useful genetic information doubles every 18–24 months
The sum total of human knowledge doubles every 2–3 years (and is soon expected to double every year)
Printed knowledge doubles every 8 years
Technical knowledge doubles every 3 years
Medical knowledge doubles every 7 years73
Each year around a million books are printed (that’s titles, not copies), 25,276 newspapers are published (that is separate newspaper titles), 40,000 scholarly journals, 80,000 mass-market periodicals, 40,000 newsletters.74
Estimates based on the Netcraft Web server survey for January 2008 show there are over 155.5 million distinct websites, an increase of over 33 million from six months before.75
As far back as 1995, Professor Peter Cochrane of the British Telecom Laboratories’ Advanced Application Division said, “There are now wristwatches that wield more computing ability than some 1970s mainframes. Ordinary cars today have more ‘intelligence’ than the original lunar lander [Apollo Lunar Module].”76 In the decade since this statement, computer sciences and related disciplines have advanced exponentially.
Seventy percent of all information in our global society has been created since the start of the Internet and is currently doubling every three years. This means we will have 16 times more information by 2015 than we had in 2003.77
Although we have made tremendous strides scientifically and technologically, are we more fulfilled or happier than our predecessors? Our knowledge has radically increased, but much of our scientific genius has been squandered in the development of armaments and weapons of mass destruction. Hi-tech gadgets and luxuries are given priority, while many of our fellow humans are hungry and destitute.
Time magazine examined this in their 1995 cover story, “The Evolution of Despair”:
VCRs and microwave ovens have their virtues, but in the everyday course of our highly efficient lives, there are times when something seems deeply amiss. ... Whatever the source of stress, we at times get the feeling that modern life isn’t what we were designed for.
Rates of depression have been doubling in some industrial countries roughly every 10 years. Fifteen percent of Americans have had a clinical anxiety disorder.78
The sentiments expressed then are even more appropriate today and the statistics even more gloomy. In 2002 nearly 25 million Americans were prescribed and took antidepressants.79 In 2003, 213 million prescriptions for antidepressants were written by U.S. doctors,80 resulting in $13 billion in sales. Eli Lilly reports that its breakthrough drug Prozac, the first in a new class of antidepressants, has been consumed by more than 35 million people since it was introduced to the U.S. market in 1988.81 In the United States, the number of deaths from suicide over the past 20 years exceeded the number of deaths from AIDS.82
Depression is now the fourth-leading cause of the global disease burden and the leading cause of disability worldwide. Depression seriously reduces the quality of life for individuals and their families and often worsens the outcome of other physical health problems. Depression is the most important risk factor for suicide [which claims around a million lives annually, with another 10–20 million attempting suicide each year], and is among the top three causes of death in young people ages 15 to 35.83
What good is a head full of knowledge if our hearts are empty and we lack peace of mind and purpose in life?
The 178-nation “UnHappy Planet Index” published by the New Economics Foundation, lists the south Pacific island of Vanuatu as the happiest nation on the planet. Meanwhile, Western nations with their high level of prosperity and abundance are way down the list. The UK and the U.S. fill 108th and 150th places respectively.84
- Robert Malone, “Information Inundation,” Forbes, 8 Nov 2005, http://www.forbes.com/2005/11/08/data-functions-coping-cx_rm_1107data.html.
- H.K. Kaul, “Information Resource Sharing Through ILL [Inter Library Loan]—The Issues,” (2004).
- UNESCO 1996, ISSN 2001, Ulrich’s 2000, Oxbridge Directory 1997.
- “February 2008 Web Server Survey,” Netcraft, 2008, http://news.netcraft.com/archives/web_server_survey.html.
- “Future Computers Will Talk to Owners—Study,” Reuters, 4 Jun 1995.
- “Strategic Survey on the Future of Space Education in Preparation for the March 2003 Workshop on the Future of Space Education, Washington, D.C.”
- Robert Wright, “The Evolution of Despair,” Time, 28 Aug 1995.
- Marie N Stagnitti, “Trends in Antidepressant Use by the U.S. Civilian Non-institutionalized Population, 1997 and 2002,” Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.
- Anahad O’Connor, “Has the Romance Gone? Was It the Drug?” New York Times, 4 May 2004.
- Adrienne Sander and Victoria Colliver, “Antidepressants Hazardous to Health Care Coverage,” San Francisco Chronicle, 23 Feb 2004.
- Karl E. Miller, “Suicide rates and use of antidepressants,” American Family Physician, 1 Nov 2005.
- Heidi Worley, “Depression a Leading Contributor to Global Burden of Disease,” Population Resource Bureau, Jun 2006, http://www.prb.org/Articles/2006/DepressionaLeadingContributortoGlobalBurdenofDisease.aspx.
- The Unhappy Planet Index (London, U.K.: New Economics Foundation, 2008,) 57.
- The Future Foretold
- A World at War
- “Mommy, I’m Hungry!”
- A Plagued Planet
- The Big Shake-up
- Our Violent World
- The “Me” Generation
- The Good News Goes Global
- Globetrotters and Jetsetters
- Information Overload
- The Pagan Revival
- The Beast That Is to Come
- The “Mark of the Beast”
- The Second Coming
- Faith to Face the Future