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March 1st, 2010

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03:02 am - Deep History & The Exponential Growth of Knowledge
Like many of you, I recently read an article about the discovery of Gobekli Tepe, an 11,000 year old temple in Turkey. This article is fascinating, but here's a considerably more well informed discussion of this site and what it means. As one archaeologist mentions in the first article: "There's more time between Gobekli Tepe and the Sumerian clay tablets [etched in 3300 B.C.] than from Sumer to today,", and the 2nd article mentions that Gobekli Tepe comes from very shortly before the time when some humans started getting most of their food from agriculture. This ancient site come from the time when humans were taking the first steps to be more than just another in a long line of hominids that lived as hunter gatherers.

11,000 years ago, all humans lived still lived in nomadic bands and while there was already long distance trade, the only way to pass on knowledge was to talk to someone and even traders rarely encountered more than a few hundred people. It was a life based on of limits to knowledge & communication that we really cannot imagine. However, the people who built Gobekli Tepe were taking the first steps towards making a larger and far more complex society with an unimaginably greater knowledge base.

I thought about those distant people who built Gobekli Tepe when I read this article about modern communications and data access. Some of the info in this article is mind-blowing. Consider this wonderfully hopeful bit of news:
"By mid-2010, there will be 6.8 billion humans on this planet. According to United Nations estimates, there also will be five billion cellphone subscriptions. These are astonishing numbers. What is still more astonishing, and hopeful, is the breadth of change this number reflects.

The United Nations says that right now 80 percent of the world’s population has available cell coverage. The fastest adoption of cellphone use is occurring in some of the world’s poorest places.
Those statistics do not make it precisely clear how many people actually have cellphones, but slightly older data (from a year ago) shows those figures are pretty darn accurate: "Six in 10 people on the face of the globe have cell-phone subscriptions, and more than 60 percent of cell-phone users come from developing nations."

25 years ago, less than 50,000 people on the planet had cellphones and less than 15 years ago, "Almost 85 percent of the world's people have no telephones and well over half have never made a telephone call." Those days are over and communications access is only going to increase.

Cellphones don't just allow people to remain in contact with one another, they can also help people make a living wage and improve their lives in ways that were impossible before (this is an utterly amazing article, and well worth reading).

Now that cellphones have spread across the globe, according to the first article on cellphones, the next change is starting to take place: "This year, the number of mobile broadband subscribers — people who access the Internet via laptops or mobile phones — is forecast to pass one billion, up from 600 million at the end of 2009.". As smaller, faster, and cheaper chips start to come out, smartphone prices are dropping fast, and it's very likely that for many people in the third world, in less than five years a basic smartphone will be cheaper than a laptop, and also more convenient. Perhaps in a decade we'll have more than half the planet equipped with near constant access to much of the amassed knowledge of the planet.

Now consider the fact that "In 2008, the world reaches an invisible but momentous milestone: For the first time in history, more than half its human population, 3.3 billion people, will be living in urban areas. By 2030, this is expected to swell to almost 5 billion.", meaning that 2/3s of the world's population will live in cities. When Gobekli Tepe was built, the first tiny cities were several thousand years in the future. Since the time of Gobekli Tepe, human technology and its effects on society has been a story of exponential growth, initially growing and building on itself very slowly, and then speeding up. Thinking about that long ago site in Turkey helps me realize just how amazing the history of civilization has been and changes are now coming well faster than ever before.
Current Mood: hopefulhopeful

(2 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:March 1st, 2010 08:32 pm (UTC)
This is absolutely fascinating to see these details laid out together.

So much potential for good. It's wonderful!
[User Picture]
Date:March 2nd, 2010 01:14 am (UTC)
These are some fascinating connections.

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