Reason Six – The Explosion of Knowledge
Vol: 150 Issue: 29 Saturday, March 29, 2014
This generation is unique in all human history. Never has humanity been forced to come to terms with so many issues simultaneously — issues for which we have no historical precedent to use as a guide.
The explosive growth of knowledge has us reeling from what humanist writer Alvin Touffler terms “future shock.” It is only in this generation that last year’s encyclopedia is about as useful as last month’s newspaper.
It has been said that the sum of human knowledge from the Flood to 1850 doubled once. It doubled again following World War II. The doubling of human knowledge increases exponentially. For example, the XT personal computer of 1981 — a triumph of human technology — is the world’s youngest antique!
The personal computer made its debut in 1980. My first one, an Amstrad 8088 unit, cost $1700, had an integrated gray-scale monitor, two 5.25 300K floppies and no HDD. It came with DOS and a pre-Windows three-floppy graphical interface. That was sixteen years ago.
The one I am working on now cost about the same, but bears as much resemblance to my old Amstrad as a WWI bi-plane does to the space shuttle.
And my new one was obsolete before you could finish saying, “Dude! You’re gettin’ a Dell!” I noted today that reasearchers at Penn State have just developed a new software that can repair damaged and infected systems as they are damaged — without requiring any human involvement.
Moore’s Law dictates that computer processing speeds double every eighteen months. So it is reasonable to conclude that the capacity for human knowledge doubles at about the same time. We are the smartest generation in history. And the most mobile.
The books of Daniel and the Revelation are not as mysterious to this generation as they were even fifty years ago — in fact, they seem downright obvious, as if they had been taken from today’s newspapers! That is precisely what Daniel recorded as a sign for this generation — “many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall be increased.”
We live in the most mobile society in history. I’ve spent a significant portion of most of the last ten years bouncing back and forth from the East to the West coast. For longer stays, I prefer to drive. Flying takes six hours. Driving takes three days.
Back in the 70’s as a rookie Texas traffic cop, I once stopped an elderly man for speeding. He was over ninety. He was such an interesting character that from that unlikely introduction, we quickly became good friends. He’d sit for hours and tell me stories of the pioneer days in the Texas Panhandle, when the Comanche Indians still ruled much of the area.
He related how he had moved to the Texas Panhandle in the 1890’s from Pennsylvania. It took two months by covered wagon. I stopped him for going 70 mph in a 55 zone. From a covered wagon to a Buick V-8 in a lifetime.
The year I joined the Marines, I saw my first eight track car stereo system. Just imagine! Being able to choose the music, just like at home! And to actually hear it in stereo! Who could have ever imagined such a thing?
Over the years, along came microwave ovens (“you won’t believe it, you can cook a hot dog in less than a minute”) audio cassette tape decks, VCR’s, personal computers, cable television and all the other technical advances that have enriched our lives since.
The pace of change is staggering, when you take the long view. Consider this. Two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul traveled around Asia Minor on foot, or aboard a wooden ship moved along by wind power caught in the sails.
Fifteen hundred years later, Christopher Columbus embarked for a journey across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a sea route to China. He went to the dock on foot, and boarded a wooden ship not unlike that of Paul’s. Three hundred years later, Benjamin Franklin walked to the dock to board a wooden sailing vessel for his trip to France.
In 1912, the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic, the pride of the Cunard lines, the latest advance in steamship technology, went to the bottom off the coast of Newfoundland, less than twenty miles from the nearby Californian.
The Californian, a Leyland Line steamer, could have saved the more than 1,500 victims, but its wireless operator had gone to bed and did not hear the SOS signal.
Today there are routine, scheduled flights of the Concorde supersonic airliner that make the trip from New York to Paris in just under three hours.
The last time the space shuttle touched down safely, it didn’t even rate the top news story of the hour on CNN.
Who could have imagined our world in Columbus’ day, or Franklin’s, or even the day the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic went to the bottom in 1912?
While in exile in Babylon, the prophet Daniel was given a vision of the future of Israel, up to the coming of the Messiah. Up to this point in the vision, those things that Daniel saw were relatively familiar, cities, events, people in a context that were not too far removed from his concept of reality. But then he was shown the things to come in the last days.
The angel told him in Daniel 10:14 “Now I am come to make the understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days; for yet the vision is for many days.”
Daniel was so staggered by what he saw it made him faint, verse 18 records that ‘one like the appearance of a man’ touched him, and strengthened him, so that he could go on.
Daniel tried to describe those things he saw using terminology that made sense to him, but it comes to us as a series of baffling symbols, images and beasts. The things he saw terrified him.
Because the visions were so completely removed from his understanding of reality, he was unable to describe them in terms that even he was able to comprehend. And so it remained, for thousands of years.
Great Bible commentators like Calvin and Luther did not even attempt to interpret the books of Daniel, or the Revelation, for that matter, saying they were allegorical or symbolic books.
Matthew Henry, writing in the 18th century, did not fare much better. Even commentators on these books in the early 20th century admitted they had trouble fitting the pieces together. After all, they dealt with a restored Israel, a revived Roman empire, and a one world government. Such things were deemed to be impossible, therefore to be interpreted as allegories.
The revealing angel understood what Daniel did not.
He explained in Daniel Chapter 12, verse 4; “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.”
Today, Daniel and the Revelation are the favorite books of Bible expositors. Many of the mysteries have already been unlocked and many more grow less mysterious all the time.
The rapidly expanding pool of human knowledge is Reason Six in the Omega Letter Intelligence Digest series, “Six Reasons Why We Believe These Are the Last Days.”