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Date: 2023-11-30 Page is: DBtxt003.php L0300-SS-ACADEMIC-RESEARCH
Foundation for technological progress in many fields

There has been an amazing amouunt of progress in recent years in terms of knowing more and more about all sorts of things.

Every day that passes there is more new knowledge ... and the amount of new knowledge every day is more and more every day!

What this means is that no individual can ever hope to get a complete grasp of all the knowledge, or even much of the available knowledge.

Another way of thinking about this is that every individual can find a lot of knowledge about something of interest ... but few will have the chance to understand how what they know fits into the bigger context of all the information.

This probably means that more and more expertise will reside in sector silos, and big multi-sector problems will never be solved.


The 'search' function that drives a lot of what people see when they interact with a computer is dangerously simplistic. Per Wikipedia: '... document search takes a keyword query and returns a list of documents, ranked in order of relevance to the query (often based on popularity and page ranking)...'. This is essentially unstable because the 'feedback' loop has the potential to enable rather silly answers to become the most popular.
I am reminded of work I did on electonic circuits as a student in the late 1950s. These circuits went out of control as soon as the feedback loops went positive ... and much the same seems to happen with modern search and social media.

There was talk in the 80s and 90s of the 'Information Age' taking over from the 'Industrial Age' ... as well as talk about the 'Digital Economy'.
In the 1970s and 1980s, I had a number of conversations with John Gulland, the head of the Fisheries Population Dynamics Unit of FAO because of my concern that massively improved computational power was enabling analysis on top of dangerously deteriorating basic data. At the time, I was the CFO of an international shrimp fishing company and we knew quite a lot about the way various nations around the world were collecting fisheries data and reporting it to the FAO. The accuracy of these data was pretty low, and often driven merely by what senior people wanted the data to show!

'AI' ... Artificial Intelligence ... may have an important role in managing knowledge and making it more accessible.

According to the Watson information on Wikipedia, Watson is a question-answering (QA) computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language, developed in IBM's DeepQA project by a research team led by principal investigator David Ferrucci. The key difference between QA technology and document search is that document search takes a keyword query and returns a list of documents, ranked in order of relevance to the query (often based on popularity and page ranking), while QA technology takes a question expressed in natural language, seeks to understand it in much greater detail, and returns a precise answer to the question

Watson_(computer) on Widipedia
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