Half-life of knowledge

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The half-life of knowledge is the amount of time that has to elapse before half of the knowledge in a particular area is superseded or shown to be untrue. The concept is attributed to Fritz Machlup (1962). For example, Donald Hebb estimated the half-life of psychology to be five years[citation needed].

The half-life of knowledge differs from the concept of half-life in physics in that there is no guarantee that the truth of knowledge in a particular area of study is declining exponentially. It is unclear that there is any way to establish what constitutes "knowledge" in a particular area, as opposed to mere opinion or theory. In addition, knowledge cannot be quantified and falsification of a doctrine is hardly comparable to exponential decay process that atomic nuclei go through[citation needed].

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Further reading[edit]

  • Samuel Arbesman (2012). The Half-life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date. Current Hardcover. ISBN 1-59184-472-X.