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What is Half-life Of Knowledge?

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Half-life of knowledge is the time it takes for widely accepted knowledge to become obsolete or shown to be wrong. It is an analogy to the half-life of radioactive decay that captures the tendency for well accepted ideas to be improved or reinvented with time. For example, the medical treatments of one century may look barbaric to the next.

The Future is Laughing at Us

Ancient Roman aqueducts were lined with lead. We know now that lead is a potent neurotoxin. Lead is such a poor choice for water delivery, that such infrastructure seems almost comical from a modern viewpoint. Several historians have proposed that lead poisoning may have contributed to the decline of the Roman Empire.
It is likely that current environmental practices that contaminate air, water and soil with known toxins will seem strange to the future. It is possible that our failings as an age will be explained by the cognitive effects of such pollutants. For example, pollution may have health impacts beyond those we currently understand.
Likewise, today's science, technology, social values and practices will seem primitive to the future, perhaps comically so.

Half-Life by Subject

The half-life of ideas analogy isn't completely accurate as some ideas may last indefinitely. The durability of ideas varies from one subject area to the next. Social sciences and psychology are thought to have a short half-life whereby half the accepted ideas change every 5 or 10 years. In areas such as technology, half-life may be even shorter. The half-life of scientific knowledge is considerably longer, perhaps 50 to 100 years. In areas such as philosophy, ideas thousands of years old continue to endure.
Overview: Half-life Of Knowledge
The time it takes for half of the well accepted ideas of today to be disproven or made obsolete.
Understanding how fast ideas change in a particular field, profession or industry.
Related Concepts

Knowledge Management

This is the complete list of articles we have written about knowledge management.
A Posteriori
A Priori
Anti Information
Artificial Knowledge
Body Of Knowledge
Corporate Memory
Dispersed Knowledge
Document Control
Document Quality
Domain Knowledge
Information Asymmetry
Information Management
Information Pollution
Knowledge Analysis
Knowledge Audit
Knowledge Discovery
Knowledge Loss
Knowledge Measurement
Knowledge Processes
Knowledge Quality
Knowledge Risk
Knowledge Transfer
Knowledge Value
Knowledge Velocity
Knowledge Waste
Knowledge Work
Known Unknowns
Master Copy
Meta Knowledge
Outside Context Problem
Propositional Knowledge
Situated Knowledge
Tacit Knowledge
Unknown Unknown
More ...
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