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Why is our world more complex?

I’m doing a talk on change this morning for an environmental government ministry — specifically, how to lead and manage change. One of the key points I will be getting across to them is that to successfully manage change, you must help people understand how relentless change will continue to be.

Some change results from rapid scientific advance — and in that context, consider the statistics I obtained from a chemical journal on the rapid evolution of knowledge/data in that field:

  • “To be up-to-date in all areas of chemistry you would currently have to read about 2,000 new publications every day”
  • “If you prefer to screen only the short abstracts, you must read 200 pages per day or about 70,000 pages per year.
  • “Furthermore, since the number of chemistry publications increases also exponentially, you need to double your reading capacity within the next 15 years. “
  • “You must read 20 publications every day in order to grasp only 1% of the overall chemical publications!”

The result of this rate of advance is an spiralling increase in the number of chemical substances:

  • “…The number of known substances has been growing exponentially since 1800, from some hundreds then to about 19 million today….”
  • “…. the number constantly doubles every 13 years….”
  • 2025: 80 million substances
  • 2050: 300 million
    2100: 5 billion……

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