I am not a numbers guy, but sometimes numbers in the news are so staggering that even I am forced to sit up and take notice. These numbers cause my eyeballs to bulge and my brain to redline. 


For example, I have heard some people say about education: “If it was good enough for me, it's good enough for the kids today.” I came across some staggering numbers that make statements like this uninformed (to be polite). 

A knowledge tsunami is bearing down on us. According to an IBM analysis, by 2020 knowledge will likely be doubling every 11 to 12 hours. That's the sum total of all human knowledge – everything humans know – doubling twice a day! 


This doubling has been happening throughout history, but never at this rate. “Knowledge doubled from 100 B.C. to 1700 (1800 years). It doubled from 1700-1900 (200 years). It doubled from 1900-1950 (50 years). It doubled from 1950-1970 (20 years). It doubled from 1970-1980 (10 years). It doubled from 1980-1988 (8 years). It now doubles every 12 months. Soon it will double every 12 hours.” This is known as the knowledge-doubling curve and the concept was introduced by Buckminster Fuller in 1982. 

This knowledge tsunami is not all that is concerning. Futurist Alvin Toffler once said: “The challenge is how long that knowledge remains accurate and useful...the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”


It's critical, then, that the support of education must be paramount if today's students  are to move forward and flourish. Remaining stagnant is not an option. (


Things are moving so fast the old proviso “you can always get a job flipping burgers” is not even the case anymore. A California burger chain has introduced Flippy the burger-flipping robot. Flippy can toss 2000 burgers a day. The test run went so well Cali Burger says, “ was swamped with more interest from potential robot buyers than it could handle.” (


Those are pretty staggering numbers, but another number in the news kind of startled me too – $20 billion. According to the U.S. Special Operations Command: “In 2017 America's elite troops, including Navy Seals, Delta Force, and Army Special Forces, conducted missions in about 70 percent of the world's nations. That tally includes an estimated 8,000 personnel in combat and non-combat roles as the U.S. works actively with the militaries of more than three dozen countries and funnels money and equipment to armed forces in nearly 130 nations. The tab: $20 billion per year.” About 6,000 of those personnel are in Afghanistan. “It costs the U.S. more than $1 million per U.S. troop in Afghanistan per year.” (


While the U.S. is out policing the world, our buddies the Chinese are treating us like a third-world country. In a buying spree since 2011: “The (Chinese) government issued a plan directing Chinese companies to buy foreign food producers and farmland. In two years, Chinese nationals went from owning $81 million worth of American farmland to nearly $1.4 billion.” 

Part of this went to buy hog farms. “America's top hog-producing county is Duplin County, North Carolina...about 2 million pigs are warehoused in hundreds of football-field-size metal barns – about 2,450 pigs per square mile. All those pigs produce a tremendous amount of waste. Duplin's hogs generate about 15,700 tons of waste daily – twice as much (waste) as the human population of the city of New York.”


Where does that waste go? “Millions of gallons of liquid hog waste are kept in colossal open-air lagoons. To prevent overflowing, farms spray it out as fertilizer on crops, which can create a mist that drifts onto nearby homes and into their inhabitants' lungs.” 


The reason behind this Chinese operation? “As China becomes increasingly wealthy and assertive it is outsourcing a dirty industry to the United States so they don't have to bear its pollution." Welcome to the third-world United States of America.



For everyone who drives a car, some numbers related to standing still are a tad staggering. “When driving in the U.S., the biggest cost comes when you're not behind the wheel. Parking represents the largest-single expense for vehicle owners, according to study results released by Seattle area based INRIX. Roughly one-third of the total cost, or more than $3,000, was racked up by a combination of parking fees and fines, driving around looking for parking or paying for more parking time than necessary, the study found.” 


It will probably not surprise you to learn that the most expensive city in which to park is New York City, about $28 for two hours of off-street parking. Per month, parking costs vary from city to city: New York - $493, Boston - $330, San Francisco - $303, Washington - $254, Chicago - $227, Detroit - $143, and Atlanta $68. For New Yorkers that represents around 46 percent of the cost of operating a vehicle. 


The good news is that it's cheaper to drive a car in the U.S. than in most countries. According to INRIX, “U.S. drivers faced a per-mile cost of 98 cents, lower than the $1.20 comparable cost in Germany and the $1.27 expense in the U.K. The average U.S. driver faced $10,288 total driving costs in 2017.” (


If all of these are a bit staggering, you could send for help by putting a message in a bottle and tossing it in the ocean. Then again, someone did this in 1886 and it was just recently retrieved. ( “That would make this the oldest message in a bottle at 132 years old.” Of course, with knowledge doubling twice a day by the time someone reads your message 132 years from now they might consider you a bit behind the curve.  


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and