By Robert N. Proctor
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Extra info for Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance
O n e c a n trace the history of secrecy back to the ancient Babylonians through medieval l o n g b o w s and fin-de-siècle invisible ink, f r o m tightly guarded f o r m u l a e for Venetian g l a s s m a k i n g to the hidden p o u c h e s of diplomatic couriers. Trade, state, and military secrets are all part of the b a c k g r o u n d to the m o d e r n system. But this m o d e r n secrecy system has its substantive start not in antiquity, but in the vast infrastructure of W o r l d War II.
6 In 1 9 9 5 , the N a t i o n a l Research C o u n c i l w o r k i n g w i t h the D e p a r t m e n t of Energy ( D O E ) estimated that the D O E ' s born and adolescent classified documents numbered some 280 million p a g e s — a n a m o u n t that w o u l d take its current complement of reviewers 9,000 years to review—if, against reality, not a line of n e w material were a d d e d . H o w e v e r incomplete it is 7 now, this nine-millennium stack is ten times larger than the previous esti mate given a few years earlier.
In the last few years, the rate of classification increased fivefold, w i t h no end in sight. Secret information is a c c u m u l a t i n g , at a rate that itself is accelerating, far quicker than it is being declassified. THE C L A S S I F I E D T H E O R Y OF K N O W L E D G E W i t h such a vast reservoir of learning under w r a p s , the D O E must h a v e — i f not explicitly then at least i m p l i c i t l y — s o m e sense of w h a t can and c a n n o t be released. W h a t , we m a y ask, is the theory of interdicting k n o w l e d g e ?
Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance by Robert N. Proctor