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Since from the time of Newton to now, we have come close to doubling knowledge every 17 years, more or less. And we cope with that, essentially, by specialization. In the next 340 years at that rate, there will be 20 doublings, i.e. a million, and there will be a million fields of specialty to every one field now. It isn't going to happen. The present growth of knowledge will choke itself off until we get different tools.

-Richard Hamming

So now you know. Right now all fields are groaning beneath the weight of their collective knowledge. Operations research, and statistics have already been squished out from the pile that is mathematics. IT has fallen out of the computer science knapsack. Biology has begat biochemistry and genetics and bioinformatics. Chemistry splintered away into materials science. English is now lit crit, historical lit, composition, linguistics, classics, and many others.

The foremost challenge, if we want to keep advancing, is going to be getting new tools to synthesize all of the crap that is being produced. But thew stuff that's being produced often isn't crap, it's often well thought out and new - there's just too much of it for me to read it and learn it. How can we go forward? Ben Franklin has been referred to as the last mean to have read every book ever written. This may apocryphal, or an out and out lie, but the point remains that I, much like Henry Rollins, go into a library, and get pissed off. I feel angry and cheated that I won't be able to read, digest, and understand all of this in my lifetime.

Natural philosophy doesn't even exist anymore, and the very idea of being well versed in so many fields seems kind of laughable today. This is completely unacceptable. I demand answers, and I demand action. I'm trying to make sure the internet stays healthy, so I think I'll have to fob this problem off on [livejournal.com profile] pearmeson, who it seems might have something to say about the crappitude of the current state of affairs.

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October 2009

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