The British passenger’s selfie with a hijacker is, perhaps at a bit of a stretch, a signal that Buckminster Fuller’s knowledge curve is nudging closer to the exponential slope.

In his book Critical Path (1982), Buckminster Fuller estimated that if we took all the knowledge that humans had accumulated and shared by the year 1 and expressed it as one unit of information, it took about 1500 years for that amount of knowledge to double.


The next doubling of knowledge from two to four ‘knowledge units’ took only 250 years, until 1750.

By 1900, 150 years later, knowledge had again doubled to 8 units.

It now takes between one and two years for the sum of human knowledge to double.

In no time it will be doubling by the hour.

Acquiring knowledge is getting much easier.  Deploying knowledge – and making reasoned choices – isn’t.

In the face of this wave of data we are inevitably less capable of separating out knowledge and context and of making choices. There is a rush to deploy.

The selfie in this case, and the choices that led to it, is a metaphor.  For ‘Gosh isn’t this amazing, what a great selfie, but it’s quite a risk’ read ‘I can do this, isn’t that amazing, sod the consequences’.

Echoing this, some academics are now beginning to challenge the value of some innovation – or at least the speed of its application, in what some are describing as a form of neo-Ludditism.

‘Should I improve this’ is being replaced with ‘can I improve this’, when ‘should’ is the better question, they argue.  Knowledge and capability means we can, the argument goes.  It doesn’t mean we should.

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