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Of course, for millions of years, people couldn’t look it up. They couldn’t read and they hadn’t invented writing yet, so there was nothing to look up.
All you knew was what you knew, along with what you could ask someone about.
“Uncle Rock told me that the bark from this tree will help a headache.”
With writing came notes, records and books. And with a great deal of training and effort, there were things that you could look up. This is an unsung moment in human history, because it allowed knowledge to begin to compile, and enabled all sorts of longer-term transactions (including debt instruments).
In the mechanical age of a hundred years ago, we got better and better at doing this at scale. Now there were millions of books, and card catalogs. But looking up most things was time consuming and often came up empty (as recently as twenty years ago, the only way to find something in a book was via an index, which certainly gave hints, but it lived only in the book itself).
The current era of on-demand, widespread looking things up offers a whole new level of insight for those that care enough to take advantage of it. Unfortunately, most people don’t.
Most organizations, most leaders, most scientists, most doctors… hesitate to look it up. We’re not sure exactly what to look up, not sure of what we don’t know, not sure of what might be out there. It still takes talent and time to find the right thing in the right place at the right time.
The next frontier is already starting to happen. The system looks it up before we even realize it needs looking up. The system tells us that this resume comes with an anti-social online record attached to it. The system knows that these test results combined with that medical history is worth a deeper look. The system knows that this house was recently sold for a fraction of what’s being asked…
All of us are smarter than any of us, and when you throw in the us that came before, the opportunities multiply.
But first, we need to care enough to want to know.