A defining characteristic of our age is the unusual math. Today's unprecedented numbers and figures are matched with graphs increasingly exponential in nature--especially the hyper-exponential, purely vertical Profusion Curve. What makes this disconcerting is that plotting the math into the future leads to dysfunction in nearly all directions. Simply stated, the math no longer works in a variety of critical settings.
This math problem arises inevitably from the process of progress. Progress always gives us more and more of everything faster and faster. In the past, when more is what we needed, it was glorious to receive such profusion almost automatically. Now, however, progress is mathematically uncontrollable and volatile. Modern progress has a math problem, and in many ways it will dominate our future. When history decided to explode, it chose to do so on our generational shift.
Following is a representative list to help illustrate this profound mathematical growth. It's important to realize that this is but a partial list and that any single number is not the problem. It's only when all the dots are connected through integration that the true picture of dysfunction comes into view.
- More video is uploaded to YouTube in 60 days than all 3 networks created in 60 years.
- Google scientists counted over 1 trillion URLs (resources, documents, domain names) on the Web.
- The average American is exposed to 10 hours of media per day.
- Half of this is television at 34 hours of TV per week on average.
- Go to college and you can choose from over 500 baccalaureate degrees.
- Get a satellite dish and choose from over 1,000 movies a month.
- The average grocery store has 30,000 different products.
- There are 55,000 configurations of coffee at Starbucks.
- We each must learn to operate 20,000 pieces of equipment in our lifetime; In the next century, we'll have a million times more technology than we do now.
- 400,000 books per year are published in US and Great Britain.
- Amazon.com offers 24 million consumer products of all kinds, and has sold over 7.5 million unique titles.
- WebMD, with 22 million visitors per month, has a privacy statement link at the bottom of their home page. Click and read their 30-page explanation of how they'll use your personal data.
- "There are 35,000 publications a year in neuroscience, and no single researcher knows even 1% of that."
- Artificial intelligence is increasing ten million times faster than human intelligence.
- Knowledge workers check email 50 times a day, instant messaging 77 times a day, and visit 40 websites per day.
- The average desk worker starts something new every 3 minutes.
- Information overload costs businesses $650 bil/yr and stress costs $300 bil/yr.
- Information is increasing at a compound annual 60%.
- One third of us live with extreme stress and 48% believe it has increased over past 5 years.
- There was more change in the last century than in all of recorded history prior to 1900.
- There will be a thousand times more change in this century than the last.
- Apple offers 225,000 apps in its Apps Store, and ten billion were downloaded in just two years.
- The new Fiat 500 subcompact has one-half million combinations to choose from.
- Malicious spam (daily) jumped from 600 million to 3 billion during a recent six-month span.
- 3.5 million words of legislation and 8,694 bills introduced in the 2009 Congress.
- There are 90,000 governmental bodies in the US.
- U.S. businesses and households will spend 7.5 billion hours complying with tax laws this year.
- In 1800 there was just one city with a million people; now there are 381.
- The percentages of households in the US that are married couple households: 1950 - 79%; 1960 - 74%; 1970 - 70%; 1980 - 61%; 1990 - 56%; 2000 - 52%; 2010 - 50%
- CERN, the new particle accelerator on the border of France and Switzerland, is the largest information generator in history, generating one billion particle interactions/sec and creating one trillion bytes/sec of information. This must be algorithmed down in 3 microseconds by a series of computers to a few hundred bytes which are saved for future examination. All other bytes must be immediately jettisoned forever, to make room for the next second's worth of data.
- Economist Mary Meeker, a securities analyst and venture capitalist with Merrill Lynch, Salomon, and Morgan Stanley, and "One of the ten smartest in tech" according to Fortune 2010: "I took a deep dive into these questions a little more than a year ago, and I'm finally up for air....By our rough estimate, USA Inc. has a net worth of negative $44 trillion. That comes to $143,000 per capita. Negative." (Business Week, Feb 2011)
- USA Today, 6-7-11: "The government added $5.3 trillion in new financial obligations in 2010, largely for programs such as Medicare and Social Security, to bring the total of unpaid financial promises to a record $61.6 trillion."
Healthcare Math dysfunction
- Healthcare costs are now $2.6 trillion/yr. In 1970, when I began medical school, this was $74 billion/yr.
- Healthcare as a percentage of GDP: 1960 - 5.2%; 1970 - 7.2%; 1980 - 9.1%; 1990 - 12.3%; 2000 - 13.8%; 2011 - 17.6%
- Doctors graduating from medical school owe an average of $155,000, while a quarter of new med school grads owe over $200,000. It's not uncommon to hear of med student debt over $400,000.
- Medicare expenditures last year reached $523 billion but with income of only $486 billion--a gap of $37 billion in one year.
- 10,000 baby-boomers will become eligible for Medicare every day for the next 19 years, causing the Medicare fiscal discrepancy to widen rapidly and unsustainably.
- The PDR (Physician Desk Reference) has 3,300 pages; when first created in 1948, it had 300 pages.
- If I read two healthcare related articles every day for a year, next year at this time I would be 1,000 years behind in my reading.
- The 1965 Medicare/Medicaid bill was 137 pages; Thirty years later, there were over 130,000 pages of rules to comply with.
- The 1993 Clinton Healthcare Reform Act had 1,432 pages, called by one Democratic Senator "overwhelmingly complex, almost frighteningly complex."
- The current healthcare reform act (Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act) is twice as large, at 2,800 pages, and will be the most complex and expensive issue in U.S. history--and, if the multiplier holds, will result in millions of pages of regulations.
We should be both alarmed and assured.
Alarmed, because there's no way we can handle numbers like these--particularly when they'll only continue to increase vertically. In the past, the math was mild, manageable, and comprehensible. Now, none of these descriptors apply. The math has gotten away from us, the numbers have gone rogue. Dysfunction? You want to see dysfunction? Stay tuned.
Assured, because God is particularly good at math. Oxford's mathematical physicist, Roger Penrose, has calculated that the precision of the created universe is on the order of 10 to the 10th to the 123rd. "This is an extraordinary figure," he writes. "One could not possibly even write the number down in full...Even if we were to write a zero on each separate proton and on each separate neutron in the entire universe, we should fall far short of writing down the figure needed."
"The Great Architect of the Universe now begins to appear as a pure mathematician," said Sir James Jeans, a contemporary of Einstein. "The universe can be best pictured, though still very imperfectly and inadequately, as consisting of pure thought, the thought of what we must describe as a mathematical thinker."
"Such as say that things infinite are past God's knowledge," wrote Augustine, "may just as well leap headlong into this pit of impiety, and say that God knows not all numbers...What madman would say so?...What are we mean wretches that dare presume to limit His knowledge?"
As for me and my house, we'll stick with the One who knows all numbers.
Did you know?
- That the number of electrons that pass through a filament of a light bulb in a minute equals the number of drops of water that flow over Niagara Falls in a century?
- That the number of electrons in a single leaf is much larger than the number of pores of all the leaves of all the trees in the world?
- That the number of molecules in a pint of water placed end to end would form a chain encircling the Earth over 200 million times?
- That of the 1030 snow crystals necessary to form an Ice Age, each snow flake--comprised of a hundred million trillion water molecules--is unique in all the universe?