Re: Knowledge Doubling Time & Singularity?

From: steve (
Date: Tue Feb 19 2002 - 10:41:59 MST

There are a couple of fundamental problems with measuring total knowledge.
The term knowledge includes several distinct things which are probably not
comparable. Also there is no "unit of information/knowledge" which we could
use for quantifying the total of human knowledge. On the other hand it's
clearly true to say that in most areas we know more and better than we did
even twenty years ago. A few ideas - you could use patents to measure
innovation (although this has the same kind of problems as using theses) -
we can measure the average time elapsed between the discovery of a technique
and its widespread adoption/use (this has clearly been getting much shorter
over the last 200 years) - we can measure the speed of geographical and
social diffusion of invention (again this is now much faster than it was
even 60 years ago) - we could have a list of questions/problems for academic
disciplines and see how many could be answered and with what degree of
assurance at various points in time up to the present (Hilbert's list of
problems in maths could be an example). Steve Davies
----- Original Message -----
From: "Anders Sandberg" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, February 18, 2002 7:27 PM
Subject: Re: Knowledge Doubling Time & Singularity?

> On Mon, Feb 18, 2002 at 10:29:12AM -0800, BigBooster quoted:
> > "This is the Golden Age of Knowledge
> >
> > Estimated years it took for knowledge to double*
> I wonder where the sources of all these numbers are? They seem to be
> like other dramatic statistics (area of rainforest cleared every year,
> children killed by sanctions against Iraq, increases/decreases in
> criminality) that are told and re-told again and again to bolster a
> popular position, but which nobody ever checks or can name their source.
> So, how could we measure actual progress? I have seen some numbers based
> on number of scientific journals, papers or Ph.D. theses, but that only
> works as long as the average knowledge in them remains constant and
> economic or structural changes doesn't affect them. Amount of published
> unique text might be another scale (presumably the knowledge is equal to
> 10% of it, by Sturegon's law :-), although now the amount of web has to
> be taken into account.
> --
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Anders Sandberg Towards Ascension!
> GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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