Dr. R. L. Wysong
June 1990
    It's normal for a person to think that they are special or unique.  This is probably more true when we reflect on our essence in the early years of our youth.  As we get older, we tend to see that we are less unique and that the things we experience and the things we have accomplished are things experienced and accomplished by others before us and likely will be again by those after us.
    Similarly, we tend to collectively think of our generation as being unique or special.  It is likely true that every generation throughout history has thought of their particular world community, as it existed in time and space) as special and unique.  History is filled with each generation proudly proclaiming its special qualities, whether it was the generation of World War I, the generation of the invention of the wheel, the time of the advent of agriculture, the time of great civilizations like the Mayans, the Egyptians, the Romans, and so forth.
    Well, where do we stand in all this? Are we truly a  unique generation? There is the tendency to think that we are because many unique things have indeed occurred in the 20th century but it could be argued that special things have occurred in each century that has gone before us as well.
    It is likely that we as people are not unique, instead it can be argued we simply exist during a unique period in the river of human life on the planet.
    The uniqueness is a result primarily of the technological age which began with the Industrial Revolution about 200 years ago.      The use of machines to enhance human capabilities and their speed of accomplishment sets us apart from all other times in history. It is   primarily speed that we are taking about here, and not quality of action.
    Earth is estimated by traditional geologic reasoning to be about 4-1/2 billion years old.  From there it is argued life began about 3-1/2 billion years ago. Agriculture is known to have begun about 10,000 years ago and, as I said, the Industrial Revolution began about 200 years ago.   If we consider the time since the industrial Revolution as the time when human capabilities for affecting our environment became really profound. If we take this 200 years as the time from which the foods we have been consuming have been altered through various processing methods and compare this to the time that life was supposed to have been on the Earth, one can understand the unique position we are presently in.  I have talked about this before in terms of how our genetic make-up expects to be eating whole fresh raw natural foods and to be born into a world  that is natural, as defined prior to the time we have been able to significantly alter such things as the oxygen content in the air, the chemical composition of water, the nutrient content of foods and the exposure to natural light. Lets  take 3.5 billion years, or the number of years estimated that life has been on this planet to equal a distance compared to 1 inch as the distance since the Industrial Revolution began about 200 hundred years ago.   This will provide an interesting perspective of our position.  By using algebra, one inch is to 200 as X inches is to 3-1/2 billion, it can be determined that there are 1.75 x 10 to the 7th inches which equals the 3-1/2 billion years.  One mile is 63,360 inches so if we divide that into the number of inches in 3-1/2 billion years, the 1.75 x 10 to the 7th) we come up with 276 miles.  In other words, if one inch equals the time since the Industrial Revolution, the time during which we have been subjected to an altered environment, 276 miles would represent the amount of time that our ancestry was not exposed to such natural pristine environment.  Some differ with this geologic time table like the clergyman Ursher who argued creation began at 6:00 p.m. or something like that in 4004 BC  The comparison is still remarkable even then with the last 200 years.
    Let me talk about our uniqueness in another way and that is the shear quantity of knowledge and information that has accumulated.  If we go from the Bronze Age, which some would argue was centered in the area of Thailand, to the Age of Agriculture and the time of the God/Kings, and finally up to the  Industrial Revolution we find very little difference in the amount of knowledge that was held by the world community.  For example, if we consider all knowledge that was held up to the year 1 AD as what we shall call one smart unit, we find that this amount of world knowledge did not change appreciably until about the year 1500 when it doubled.  So there were two smart units by the year 1500.  At the time of 1 AD or one smart unit, about four elements were known whereas in 1500 eleven elements were known.  Then from 1500 to 1750 the smart units doubled again so that there were four smart units in 1750.  We're now entering into the time of the Watt steam engine, Lavoisier subscription of the elements, and the full swing of the Industrial Revolution. So by the year 1900 another doubling has occurred resulting in eight smart units.
    Now changes really begin to happen as we enter into the information revolution, rather then the power machine and technology revolution, particularly beginning in about 1950.  In 1950 there was another doubling of 16 smart units.  The rate of information increase can be measured by many different methods such as the number of publications per year, patents per year and other criteria.  To give a specific example, there were about 18,000 medical articles in 1879, that is total articles to that date.  At the present there are 250,000 articles published each year.  Back to our smart units we continue through the years, in 1950 there were 16 smart units, 1960 – 32, 1967 with another doubling to 64 smart units, 1973 another doubling to 128 smart units, and now it’s estimated that there is a doubling in smart units every year.  When you consider that the total smart units up to 1 AD was 1and there were 128 in 1973 and these are doubling yearly now the incredible rate of information increase becomes apparent.
    What does all of this mean? It speaks to the fact that we do indeed live in a unique time of information glut.  The skeptical capability of human action is without equal in history.  When we understand this logarithmic rate of accelerated capacity, it becomes important to understand that management is critical.  We are in an age, however, of quantity not quality.   Even though information escalates  at bewildering rates, applications of this knowledge do not seem well formulated.  They often do not seem even as sound as ideas held by ancient peoples.  This is becoming particularly apparent as we face environmental crises which are a result of quantity capabilities and not quality considerations.
    For example here are the 1879 words of Chief, Seattle:
    His wisdom is  obviously not something we have applied. Only now are we starting to come back to it.  It is a recrudescence even though we claim it to be new wisdom we have learned from some sort of new scientific investigation.  In other words, the technology to detect atmospheric ozone holes or the like has not created our ecological concepts as we might be lead to believe.
    Most systems of thought governing human action such as current political views are not something born out of the wealth of information accumulating in our age, but rather old political theories that have been around for centuries and have not been updated by current knowledge. Thus, we are in a unique position of being great knowledge and data accumulators but not very good at synthesizing this material into sasutary codes of conduct that not only bring peace and health to us now, but fiduciary protect future generations.
    However, things are changing.   Some are being moved by new information that is compelling in its logic for changing our ways of doing things.  Others, unfortunately the majority, and u