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Bridging The Gap
The golden era of anti-knowledge: Christian Schneider
  Sunday 01 January, 2017
The golden era of anti-knowledge: Christian Schneider

Shortly before his death in 1983, eccentric futurist Buckminster Fuller introduced what he called the "knowledge-doubling curve" to describe the rapid acceleration of human knowledge. Fuller estimated that before 1900, humanity's cognitive database doubled every century; after World War II, the doubling of knowledge occurred after every 25 years. But with technological advances, recent studies suggest the total knowledge base is now doubling every 11 hours.

That is, until the year 2016, which seems to have drastically reversed this trend. This past year appears to be the first year in human history that actually extracted knowledge from the human database. We now know less than we did before the year began 12 months ago.

Clearly, we now have no idea what it takes to run a successful presidential campaign. The staid, mostly-serious affairs of the past were jettisoned in favor of a freewheeling, fact-deficient performance art piece that at one point featured the eventual U.S. president bragging about the size of the content of his pants. (A boast that had media fact-checkers calling in sick en masse the next morning.)

President-elect Donald Trump laid waste to political consulting, pollsters, fact-checkers, and general good taste with his tornado of blight, grabbing the American electorate's previously hidden parts and not letting go.

In victory, Trump dismantled our finely-honed perception of the seriousness of the American presidency. An office once held by Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson is now inhabited by a man who believes George W. Bush had knowledge of the September 11, 2001 attacks before they happened, led the charge to prove President Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States, accused a competitor's father of helping assassinate John F. Kennedy, mocked a disabled reporter, and flirted with the idea that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered. It was a year that a contestant on The Bachelor who declared "deep intellectual things are just my jam" may have proven herself too much of a philosophical elitist for the American electorate.

Further, on Trump's way to the presidency, we learned about the balsa wood structure that undergirds the conservative movement. Faced with a candidate that was neither conservative nor Republican, the American right raced to see which member could offer the most embarrassing capitulation to Trumpism. Whereas years of experience had taught us that the "religious right" spoke for morality and decency, that impression has evaporated. Perhaps the newest printing of the Bible will be updated to warn us that "a man with tiny hands and a large Twitter following shall lead you."

This year also rolled back whatever perception Americans had of Bill and Hillary Clinton as a political dynasty. In losing to Trump, Hillary Clinton exposed herself as one of history's worst presidential candidates, unable to inspire those on the left who remained loyal to socialist septuagenarian Bernie Sanders following the primary. In the May obituary for Mary Anne Noland of Richmond, Virginia, her loved ones noted that when "Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton," Noland chose, instead, "to pass into the eternal love of God on Sunday."

For those who thought the peaceful transfer of power from one individual to the next was an accepted American tradition, 2016 was also a jarring experience. Upon Trump's election, therapists began seeing patients for Trump-related "fear, anxiety, and depression" disorders. Women began shedding their long tresses, no longer wanting to fit in to an America where Trump's election represented "an attack on minorities, women, and marginalized people in general." One distraught Washington Post writer claimed Trump's election sapped her of any desire to find a lover.

Yet politics wasn't the only area in which Americans were faced with a choice between two historically inept competitors. A week before the election, as the Chicago Cubs fell behind the Cleveland Indians by a three games to one deficit, the prognostication website FiveThirtyEight highlighted the Cubs' long odds with a post entitled, "The Cubs Have A Smaller Chance Of Winning Than Trump Does."

In other previously-inconceivable sports news, the words "Cleveland" and "championship" met together in a sentence for the first time in over a half-century as the Cavaliers won the NBA title. U.S. Olympic gold medalist swimmer Katie Ledecky shattered what we thought we knew about how fast humans could move through water, as it seemed she was on a flight back to America right around the time her competitors were finishing.

2016 was also a tough year for those who believed in the power of everlasting love. America's celebrity royalty, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, finally called it quits after 12 years as a couple. Pitt was once engaged to noted scientist Gwyneth Paltrow, who this year declared that negative words and sounds can hurt water's feelings. Paltrow was following the lead of Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto, who believed that shouting at rice can spoil it.

Following the election, traditional media outlets blamed Trump's victory on the spread of "fake news." As if visited by the gods of irony, after printing a lengthy piece exposing the nefarious reach of such disinformation, The Washington Post issued a correction admitting their article had, in fact, relied on information from suspect news sources.

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