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Op-Ed: Knowledge doubles almost every day, and it’s set to increase

This rise in information will present challenges to human societies, as several commentators point out. Michael Cutter , who is Vice President and CMO Quality at Merck KGaA notes that “a world which is changing so fast that ‘current’ has a somewhat dynamic meaning and we need to think about what this means for our children, the new generation and even ourselves.”

Cutter’s way of trying to address what is happening is built around models which follow the acronym VUCA, which represents Volatility; Uncertainty; Complexity; Ambiguity. The meaning of each element of VUCA can be used to describe the behavior of groups and individuals in organizations, capturing both systemic failures and behavioural failures, which can lead to organisational failure.

Volatility is about the nature and dynamics of change, and the nature and speed of change forces and change catalysts. Uncertainty, describes the lack of predictability and a loss of the sense of awareness and understanding of issues and events. Complexity, considers the multiplex of forces leading to and confusion. Ambiguity, represents the haziness of reality and the potential to misread information.

Why is the world seeming more chaotic the more complex and interconnected it becomes? The answer may be too much information, or information overload. This is represented by what some social scientists refer to as the Knowledge Doubling Curve, as Feras A. Batarseh of the London School of Economics points out. This theory goes that until year 1900, human knowledge approximately doubled every century. However, by 1950 human knowledge doubled every 25 years. In 2000, human knowledge would double every year. Now, our knowledge is almost doubling every day.

As to why this might be happening, Marc Rosenberg puts the exponential knowledge growth down to, first, the The Internet of Things, noting “the amount of information generated by connected devices will likely match, if not outstrip, the amount of information generated by people.”

Second is big data, which means gathering more and more information about the information or data we’ve already gathered. Third comes the pace of scientific invention and discovery. Finally comes the collaborative, knowledge-sharing society, which concerns the growing interconnectedness of individuals, teams, and organizations.

This additional knowledge does not necessarily mean we are becoming wiser and the impact will affect businesses, universities and governments. Coping with this knowledge tsunami may require new leadership in firms, new ways of working and studying, and alternative methodologies for quickly processing, comparing and evaluating information sources. Certainly there is a need to accept the growing complexity and the less ordered nature of things as the world and what we know about it becomes ever more complicated and unpredictable.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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