When Lucy stood
up in the African savannah for the first time, she demonstrated that humans
could be fundamentally different from those who perished before them. Her mind
was expanding and her thoughts, accelerating. With danger all around her, she
was willing to explore information and that eventually propelled humans out of
Africa and into the unknown. The expansion of the mind was the only attribute
that fueled them out of mediocrity. However, recent history tells us that they
are prone to the recurrence of ignorance.
Humans seem to
have been successful in rewinding the progression of knowledge back - something
that seldom happened for hundred thousand years. Knowledge was always expected
to have a positive slope, and for most of the human history that was true.
However, in the recent past it has substantially deviated from the expected
norm. The reasons for this is unclear but one possibility is the availability of
a large number of information channels. The advent of printing formalized and
accelerated information flow that was largely constrained to word of mouth
before that. Now that a large number of diverse channels allow the creation and
dissemination of content, without the need for verification, information itself
is losing meaning. In such a regime, aggregate knowledge can decline and this
could create chaos in a system that relies on informed and rational
decision-making at all levels.
effects on policy due to loss of information are clear. Elections have produced
sub-optimal outcomes and autocratic regimes have been able to sustain
themselves without significant effort. As the seven billion cling together
hoping for a better tomorrow, their leaders appear to lack information to move
them forward. The only viable solution to this stalemate is education that
provides the skills to distill noise into usable information.